Sail Date: May 2004
SS Cabin is the way to go - in any location on ship except right next to the outside elevators! Food surprisingly good in the dining room for lunch and dinner. Service good considering that now-a-days the servers just have time to serve ... Read More
SS Cabin is the way to go - in any location on ship except right next to the outside elevators! Food surprisingly good in the dining room for lunch and dinner. Service good considering that now-a-days the servers just have time to serve and run. Ate breakfast in room on veranda and that was heaven. The actually fresh orange juice was great. One thing to remember is that if you do room service for breakfast, do it during Lido breakfast hours so the fresh OJ is available!! One day I went up early and got fresh oj and good danish to supplement the room service and that was perfection! Lido food was ok, not good, just ok. Special entertainment was very varied and good. We were lucky enough to have Tom Drake (the cruise director's husband) as our comedian; a great comedic type juggler person (I am not good with names!), and an Elton John impersonator who ended up giving a very entertaining show. The stage shows were just ok as usual. We enjoyed the first one as the songs took us (in our late 50's) back to our high school days, but slept thru the last one. The kids that do these shows really put on their best, but I usually sleep thru them! Ports of call: Did not do this cruise for the ports, but for the room. Did no cruise excursions except to go see the turles on Grand Cayman. My husband just loves to hold and play with those stupid turtles!! Since we did not do a tour, went into town while in Cozumel. If you go that route, I highly recommend playing mini-golf at Sally's. I know you don't usually think of mini-golf as something to do, but here it is a fun and unique experience. It is just three blocks inland from the main road along the shore, in from the pier area. Embarkation and Debarkation: Smooth and easy. Line started up about 11:10 am and started embarking at 11:30. If you do get there early from a flight, etc. HAL has an area for you to wait that is air conditioned and has a little kiosk to buy refreshments while you wait- a few chairs, but you might have to stand. If you do get there early and wait in line, the porters will come by and take your non-carry on luggage for you. If, at this time, you are in a guarantee cabin and STILL don't know your room number, the porter will have the manifest and be able to tell you. Being able to stay in your room until disembarking is great. We even had complete room service for breakfast on this last day and our balcony faced the Atlantic..... sitting there watching the ships go by and the airplanes overhead- great! We were off the ship and home in Boca Raton by 9:45 a.m. It was the smoothest it has ever gone for us out of 6 other cruises. Lounges and Casino: Don't know much as don't drink and don't gamble. Will say the smoke (am a non-smoker too!) was not oppressive at all. I can remember trying to shop on the Rotterdam with the Casino right next to one of the main boutiques and it was horrible. Pool Area: You already know the answer to this one right? Well, can't sunbathe, so didn't use the Lido Pool area but it looked like a very nice area. Did notice that on the deck above the pool they had many lounging chairs and one nice touch was an area under a canvas for people like me(!) and also nice "shower" areas so you could cool off if you didn't want to go down to the pool to do so. Fresh water pools, I believe. One humorous note. Since this ship does nothing but Caribbean cruising, why the polar bear sculptures by the pool? Overall: I don't think this is such a great itinerary, but if you just want to relax for a week in the best value room around (SS)and need the ease of doing a cruise that is available year round, this was a great one to do. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2004
Cruising on the Golden Princess I had high expectations when booking this cruise. I have 2 young children and let me tell you. All our expectations were met. The Zuiderdam is an amazing ship and the perfect size for our family. The club ... Read More
Cruising on the Golden Princess I had high expectations when booking this cruise. I have 2 young children and let me tell you. All our expectations were met. The Zuiderdam is an amazing ship and the perfect size for our family. The club Hal was a real hit. Thanks to Brian, Heidi and Kristi the kids wanted to go when we were out to sea and in the evenings after dinner. This alone makes a world of difference. Allows mom and dad some quality time to sit and relax by the pool. And enjoy the evening entertainment. The food was 5star and the service was just as good. This is by no means a flashy ship with all the hoopla offered by the Princess. This was tasteful and quiet. Yet there were ongoing activities if one so desired. The family state rooms were perfect. Bunk bed pops out of the ceiling and the other from the love seat. Again perfect for kids. The shows were perfect. A comedian, Elton John impersonator, Juggler and the Zuiderdam's own entertainment. I would recommend this ship for families with children the ages of 6 to 17. On the negative side of things. (only a few!) Older teenagers and up to the age of mid 30's, I do not feel the atmosphere would appeal to them. Again it was fun, but not Spring Break fun. The visit to the Half Moon Cays was far too short. I would have loved 2 days there and forgo Key West. I just returned from the Western C. Tour and was so impressed with this vacation I had to pass it on. It was just amazing. Bon voyage! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2004
We are a long time married couple in our early 50's. We live in S. Florida and, despite popular belief, we did not get any Florida residents breaks on ANY of our eight cruises. This trip was to the W. Caribbean with stops in Key ... Read More
We are a long time married couple in our early 50's. We live in S. Florida and, despite popular belief, we did not get any Florida residents breaks on ANY of our eight cruises. This trip was to the W. Caribbean with stops in Key West, FL., Cozumel, Mexico, Georgetown, Grand Cayman and HAL's private island, Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas. We left our home by limo and arrived at Port Everglades (Ft. Lauderdale) at 11:30am on 5/29. Our luggage was taken at the curb and we entered the building. Since we splurged and got the Deluxe Verandah Suite we bypassed the lines and went right to the suite counter. Our cards, with pictures embedded on them, were issued, our picture taken by the ships photographer at the embarkation ramp, and we were on the ship all within 15 minutes. We immediately went up to the Neptune Lounge, which is for S and PH guests. Our cabin steward, Budi, was kind enough to let us drop our carry on luggage in our suite and we headed down the hall to the Lounge. There we met Sheryll and Joena. Two lovely girls that were there for our every need. We booked the purple cabana on Half Moon Cay first. There are only eight cabanas and they are truly worth every penny. They are air-conditioned with a ceiling fan, refrigerator, table and 4 chairs and there is a lattice surrounded deck on the front with two lounge chairs and a shower. We found water, soda, cut up fruit, cut up veggies and dip in the fridge. They also had float mats there for us with some beach towels. We also reserved scuba in Cozumel, swimming with the stingrays in the Caymans and parasailing in the Bahamas. I'll go in to that later. All our luggage was delivered by 3:30. It was casual for dinner the first night. Our table in the Vista dining room was on the upper floor, deck 3. We were seated at table 61 which was dead center of the stern of the ship and at a window. There was no vibration on ANY night. KEY WEST:We docked in Key West at 8am on Sunday morning. The trolley is the best bet for the money. You can get on and off as much as you like for one price. Hemingway's house is worth seeing and eating lunch at Sloppy Joe's (once Hemingway's hangout) is mouthwatering !! DELUXE VERANDAH SUITE: Our suite, 7047, on the Rotterdam deck was more than we had hoped for. There were more closets and drawers than we could have used on a month long voyage ! Upon entry to the right were closets and to the left was the dressing room with ceiling to floor mirrored closets. Opposite the closets was the marble vanity with a padded stool and three drawers. There was also a lighted makeup mirror and a hair dryer in the top drawer. Through the dressing room is the bathroom with solid surface counter and double sinks. The water pressure is great !! There are medicine cabinets on each end of the bathroom mirror. There is a separate glass shower and a jacuzzi tub with shower. Once past the dressing room you enter a living room area with a lazy "L" shaped leather couch, coffee table and two leather chairs. The leather is almost like kidskin it's so soft. We found a beautiful arrangement of fresh flowers waiting for us and a bottle of champagne, compliments of the Captain, on ice with two champagne glasses. To the left is the bedroom area with a king sized bed. It had NINE feather pillows on it and a down duvet. Very luxurious. Next to the bed against the verandah wall was a long desk, tv, fridge and the door to the verandah. There is a huge picture window over the desk and waiting for you on the desk are binoculars for you to use during the cruise. A very thoughtful touch. There was also a bowl of fresh fruit that was replenished daily. The verandah was very large with a table and four chairs and two large wicker type chairs with large wicker type ottoman's. It was very comfortable out there. ODYSSEY RESTAURANT: Beautifully set tables. $20.00 per person cover charge but worth it. White onyx floors with burgundy carpeting under tables and chairs. The ceiling fixtures are fabulous. They are between 3 and 4 feet in diameter and look like suspended sand dollars or mushroom caps. Glass and gold throughout. Excellent service. CAPTAINS DINNER: This was the first formal night after a day at sea on Monday. We had our portrait taken by the ships photographer and a picture of us with the Captain. We were at the early seating but, along with us, there were many men in tuxes and many women in long gowns. There were, however, people that should not have been admitted into the dining room dressed the way they were....more suited for the pool grill. The daily paper you receive in your room every day tells you what the dress of the evening is. If it says "Formal" it means "Formal" !! COZUMEL: Cozumel is on central time and the ship turned it's clocks back an hour, so we did too. I took the 2 hour scuba excursion. It was fabulous. Once we got past the fire coral the angel fish were as big as your head, the coral and sponges beautiful and there were tons of schools of different fish. We even played with a small stingray. Be advised the sun is EXTREMELY strong in Mexico. Lather on the sunscreen !! GRAND CAYMAN: We arrived on Wednesday morning, still on central time. We booked the stingray city excursion. It is VERY crowded there but there are tons of stingrays and, with an underwater camera, you can get plenty of pictures, play with them, pet them, feed them and hold them. If you bring children keep an eye on them. If they get too frisky around the rays or if the kids are on the wild side there may be a problem. There was one young boy on our excursion whose parents did not keep an eye on him and he was not very nice to the rays and got stung !! He was taken to a hospital. The small boat that takes you to the sandbar is a 20-25 minute ride...in the sun.....more sunscreen !! The shops in the Caymans are VERY expensive. Do your shopping in Cozumel. 2nd DAY AT SEA: On Thursday we had a day at sea on our way to the Bahama island owned by HAL. At 12:30 there was a Captain's Champagne brunch held for the suite guests. It was very nicely done with an excellent presentation. We met a couple from Colorado there, Larry and Donna. He is the author of the "Cruise Mate" books. HALF MOON CAY: We tendered into Half Moon Cay. My husband booked the parasailing excursion and had the time of his life. He was up about 300 feet. I took the tram to our purple cabana and settled in. There were three steps down from the cabana deck to the sand which is like sugar. The water is crystal clear turquoise and warm but right off the beach there is no snorkeling to speak of. You'd be better off with an excursion. They had a wonderful cookout with ribs, chicken, hamburgers and hot dogs, fruit, salads, ice cream from 11:30 till 1:30. It was a nice laid back day made even better by the air conditioned cabana !! DEBARKATION: The deluxe verandah suites (Cat. S) and the penthouse suites are called first for debarkation however you can stay in your suite until about 10:30. We did that and had a nice, quiet breakfast. Room service was wonderful throughout the trip always arriving before you knew it with hot food hot and cold food cold !! When you're ready you'll make your way down to deck 2, midship, and disembark. This was one of the best cruises we've ever been on and I would sail HAL again without a thought ! We are booked for a S. Caribbean cruise on 10/31 with Carnival. I've never been on the Destiny but our son and daughter-in-law booked the trip with other family members and friends so we'll see. I'm not a Carnival fan. We highly recommend this ship and this line. The crew and staff are so friendly and go out of their way to please you. There was not ONE disappointment on this trip...I think that says it all. Any questions please feel free to contact me at LucieLady@aol.com. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2004
My husband and I booked our own air and flew from CA to Ft. Lauderdale. We stayed overnight at the Amerisuites on 17th street. This is an excellent location as the Outback Steak House and a good Mexican restaurant are just across the ... Read More
My husband and I booked our own air and flew from CA to Ft. Lauderdale. We stayed overnight at the Amerisuites on 17th street. This is an excellent location as the Outback Steak House and a good Mexican restaurant are just across the parking lot. The hotel provides a free shuttle from Airport to Hotel, and Hotel to the pier. Around 10:45 we hopped on the shuttle to take us to the beautiful Zuiderdam. Be sure to go to the middle of the terminal not the two ends. The sign in front said they would open at 11:30 however, they opened the doors at 11:10 and we paraded in. At the dock/reception area we were ECSTATIC to find out we had been upgraded from a category AA to a category S full suite room 6084 next to the glass elevators mid ship. Perfect location. We had originally booked a BB balcony, then 5 days before sail we got bumped up to the AA, then finally the suite. I give all the credit to my FABULOUS TA, that pushed the cruise lines every single day to get us upgraded as far as possible. This guy has the world's best customer service, & competitive pricing. Please send me an e-mail @ ksiggins@faroudja.com for his contact info if interested. We dined the 1st night in the Odyssey/Pinnacle since it is a 2 for 1 on the 1st night. Call HAL and book your reservation before you get on the ship. We thought the food was worth $10 each but not worth $20 p/p + tip. Food in the Lido and regular dining room is very good. My husband especially loved the hot soups, and I enjoyed the cold ones. The cheesecake is heavenly. Service was excellent and the crew aimed to please. Nice! Key West - We walked around the corner from the dock and saw the sign for the Conch Train. Cost $22 each for 1.5 hours. It is great, and they show you the whole island. The ship charges $24 p/p. Cozumel: We grabbed a taxi with another fun couple we met and headed for Chakanub park. $10 per taxi NOT P/P + tip. Chakanub is a beautiful park. It is $12 p/p to get in. Rental of mask, snorkel and fins was a total of $6 p/p. The snorkeling is excellent. We lounged in the chairs under the grass huts. Paradise. Everything is sparkling clean, and there are no beggars. Including cab, park entrance fee, snorkel equipment we paid $20.50 each. Ship charges $49 p/p. Grand Cayman: I pre-booked a trip to Stingray City, and Coral Reefs through NativeWays Sports. Their rep Sharon Eubanks met us in the North Terminal which is where the tenders dock. Great lady. Since we had a later excursion she kindly offered to take us to 7 mile beach, then picked us up later. We went to the dock where we boarded a small boat, and had refreshments. Richard & Michael the 2 crewman were excellent. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND Nativeways. Cost was $30 p/p for stingray city and 2 snorkel sites, for 2.5 hours. Ship charges $49 for Stingray City alone. Half Moon Cay: Very pretty island. It was super windy when we were there. We got a clamshell which I would recommend if you are pasty white, or don't want to get too much sun. The snorkeling from the beach is NOT GOOD, so if you want to snorkel take the boat trip. We had a delicious barbecue there. Cruise-Critics: There were about 35 people who I corresponded with via e-mail before the trip. About 20 or so showed up for our get together the day of sail. I want to thank Sandy and Peter from Australia who we pal'd around with and made our trip so much fun. Bottom line. OUTSTANDING CRUISE, gorgeous ship, great food, excellent service. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2004
I am writing this review of our cruise on the HAL Zuiderdam for those of you who are curious about doing the Eastern Caribbean trip. We started our 7 day cruise on April 24, 2004. Here is my personal recap: DAY 1: HAL does allow early ... Read More
I am writing this review of our cruise on the HAL Zuiderdam for those of you who are curious about doing the Eastern Caribbean trip. We started our 7 day cruise on April 24, 2004. Here is my personal recap: DAY 1: HAL does allow early boarding, but be aware that they do not have your cabins ready to be occupied. When boarding they would like you to go to the Queen's Lounge and check your carry on luggage with them. This defeats the purpose of carrying your breakables/valuables on with you. We just kept our bags and went to a comfortable lounge to wait for the PA system announcement that the cabins were ready to be occupied. This was definitely better than waiting in the cruise terminal. The room was a cat. SS. This was the best room we have had on a cruise (8 previous cruises). For two people, the space was more than adequate. My lovely companion, Betty, did enjoy the space in the bathroom (double sink, separate shower and tub--with Jacuzzi jets). The balcony was large and totally covered. I would avoid the balcony cabins that are next to the outside/glass elevators. I am not that big on privacy, but those balconies are entirely viewable by all guests in the elevators. DVDs are available at the front desk for the DVD player they provide in the room. They allow three to be checked out at a time (no fee). Be aware that the most popular DVDs are checked out and unavailable through much of the cruise (first come, first served). However, I tried to be considerate, and returned each DVD as soon as I viewed it, so that others could enjoy the movies. Check all information that is provided in your room. I was surprised to see the itinerary changes noted on a document. They switched the days/times for St. Thomas and Tortola. For the first time ever, I had booked a shore excursion outside of the cruiseline's shore excursion desk. I booked the Dolphin Discovery Swim, in Tortola, directly. The cell phone I brought along came in handy. I was able to change the date and time. I also went to the Pinnacle Grill to make an additional reservation for dinner on our last night of the cruise. Be aware that while the Pinnacle Grill does not appear full many nights, they only accept reservations for a certain amount of guests (staffing?). The prime time seating times do fill up quickly. Check your seating confirmation card for the main dining room that they put is in your stateroom. I went downstairs to discuss this, and found that my request was not granted (late, table for two). I was informed that they had many requests for a table for two and were unable to accommodate us. However, they would take my name and see what they could do. For anyone looking to change from late to early seating, good luck! While I was waiting, I heard many people grumbling about being assigned to the late seating, when they had requested early. My guess is that up to 75% of the people on board wanted early dining. I also went to the shore excursion desk and reserved a half clam shell for Half Moon Key. We took advantage of the 50% off Pinnacle Grill dinner on this first night. It was incredible. I even booked another evening (bringing it up to three total) because it was that good, and plus, as previously mentioned, we did not get the seating that we wanted in the main dining room. Even on the first night, after dinner, we were unable to get an 8:00 reservation for the night we wanted to add (Tuesday night) because they were already booked. We accepted a 9:00 reservation. We also prepaid for the $19.99 drink card for Half Moon Key before going to bed. The bartender gives you the drink card immediately. Day 2: I was not expecting Half Moon Key to be that big of a day. We were pleasantly surprised at how much we enjoyed it. The half clam shell cover was worth the money (I need a little shade from the strong sun). We took advantage of the drink card. Unlimited rum punch, bottled beer and water, and sodas, was well worth the $19.99. We sat near the bar for convenience, but they also had a drink wagon going up and down the beach, for those who wanted even more convenience. The complimentary BBQ was great. "I wish I could stay here forever" was the appropriate name for the bar we sat near (and visited a number of times). When we arrived back on board, I was surprised to see a card notifying us that our table for the main dining room had been changed to a table for two. We had not even planned to go to dining room on this night, but knowing that they made the effort to accommodate us, we decided to put on appropriate attire and check it out. We were made to feel very welcomed and the dining room was nice. The table had what appeared to be a good location and was appropriate for 4 (set for just the two of us). I was concerned about it being in the back, due to the information that I read about. And yes, the vibration does exist in the back. It is annoying, but tolerable. Walking from the back of the dining room, to the front, the vibration almost entirely disappears. This vibration was not something that would ruin our experience, but something I would like to avoid on a future cruise. Day 3: Why pay extra for a mini-suite unless you are going to spend some time in it? So we did spend some time in it. A nice time to sleep in, read a book on the balcony, and to watch a movie on the DVD player. A quick run up to the buffet (4 trays!!!), and I served us lunch on the balcony. Yes, we could have ordered room service, but we like the variety. The lunch buffet selection was by far the best of any cruiseship we have been on. The staff was very active in preparing pastas and sandwiches, however you wanted them prepared, and plating the food for you, throughout the buffet line (this was a nice touch). We did venture out to see a movie in the Queen's Lounge. We enjoyed the movie and the popcorn, but do bring a sweater. I usually don't mind being in a cool room, but it was freezing in there. We eventually did the dressing up for the formal night routine. We did a few photos, went to dinner, and then to the show. A relaxing day overall. Day 4: I hoped that all would be in order for our rescheduled day in Tortola. This is the day we had planned to do the swim at the Dolphin Discovery, that I had booked directly. We took a taxi and had a great time interacting with the dolphins. It exceeded our expectations. Surprisingly, we spent more time than expected in the water with the dolphins. We did the Royal Swim, which is the top of the line, but the cost (when booked directly) was reasonable, when compared with other, less interactive Dolphin Encounters, that I have read about. After buying every photo and the video (so much for the savings I just mentioned--oh well, this is a once in a lifetime thing!), we went to lunch at Pusser's Landing. Since there was no time for the Virgin Gorda trip, we hired a taxi driver, Sam, to take us to Cane (Cane's ?) Beach. He gave us a great ride. Sam would stop along the way to show us some beautiful sites and picture spots. He even showed up 10 minutes early, from the time we had requested, to pick us up after we spent 2 hours on the beach. And what a great beach! It was not crowded and had some very convenient services, with many bars, restaurants, and shops right along the sand. We will definitely return here. We had another great night at the Pinnacle Grill (Bone-In Ribeye was incredible). Day 5: While we wanted to see St. Thomas, so many people wrote great things about taking the trip to St. John's. Having been unable to rent a car through Budget in St. Thomas, I decided to take the ferry to St. John's. While St. John's was enjoyable, we both thought it was not worth all of the effort. While it was less expensive, and we had more time and freedom doing it on our own vs. through the cruiselines shore excursion desk, it was a "not to do again trip" for us. Considering we had to take a taxi, then a ferry, then a taxi (on St. John's to the national park), then a taxi leaving the park, then a ferry, then another taxi (back to the ship), it was a lot of traveling, time and money. By the way, the national park in St. John's was nice, but crowded, and the services were expensive and very limited (unlike the previous day in Tortola). We did the tram ride in St. Thomas ($15 each, roundtrip). It was nice on the observation deck. On this vacation, money was not a big issue for us, but we did not seem to get the best bang for our buck today. Renting a car through Budget would be our choice for the next time we are in St. Thomas. It saves you $15 per person on the tram. You can drive to the observation deck in your rental car for no charge. Day 6: This was another relaxing sea day. The midday dessert buffet in the dining room should not be missed. I have seen this type of buffet on other cruises (notably NCL's Chocoholic's Midnight Buffet), but this is the time to do it. Being on late seating, it did not ruin my dinner, and I was able to enjoy some fabulous treats. The presentations were eye catching. Tonight's formal night was even better than the first formal night. The dining room was decorated with the candles on the tables and the white covers on the chairs, as I have previously read about. This did add a classy touch. The main show was also very good. Day 7: We planned on going to Paradise Island when we disembarked in Nassau. If you plan to do this, do not take the water taxi, unless you really want a boat ride. The water taxi does not leave until they are full and then, if you plan to go to the Atlantis Resort, which is what we did, it is a bit of a walk from the dock to the resort. Atlantis is an incredible resort/casino. Even I was impressed, and I am from Las Vegas. The grounds and the inside of the building were worth a few pictures. The casino was nothing special, and the machines were not as "loose" as Las Vegas (even though I did get lucky on a video poker machine). Take a taxi/van to and from Nassau. We took the van right at the front door of the Atlantis back to Nassau (very convenient). We did go to the temporary Straw Market, and bought some inexpensive gifts. Unfortunately, the Straw Market is still in a temporary spot and not anywhere as nice and spacious as it was in its old location (before the fire). I did not notice any work being done to relocate the market back to its old location. A quick trip to a conveniently located Senor Frog's and then back to the ship. A nice day, overall. Day 8: Unfortunately, disembarkation day is not usually very enjoyable. However, due to our late booking of this trip, we also had a late flight out of Ft. Lauderdale. We decided to rent a car and spend the day at Hollywood Beach. Be aware that some rental car companies are no longer picking up people at the cruise terminal. Our day at the beach was enjoyable, especially because it was a relaxing way to spend your first hours after getting off of the ship in the sand vs. fighting with lines and people at a crowded airport. When we did arrive at the airport it was very quiet (approximately 5:00 p.m. for a 6:45 p.m. flight). It was easy to check baggage and get through security (no line). Overall: This was one of our best cruises (if not the best) that we have taken. We met some great people and had very memorable time. We have been spoiled by the size and comforts of the SS category, and would recommend this category room for people who intend on spending time in their room/balcony. Do not miss dining in the Pinnacle Grill (spend the extra $20 for the surcharge---you are on vacation!). If you have concerns about doing the Dolphin Swim, do it. I had concerns about doing it, and it was worth it. It was a once in a lifetime experience for us. Have a great vacation (WE DID!) Dan and Betty Read Less
Sail Date: April 2004
This was our first HAL cruise; we were looking for an upscale line other than Princess. We were very very pleased with our cabin and felt immediately that there was something different about the atmosphere on this cruise (this was our ... Read More
This was our first HAL cruise; we were looking for an upscale line other than Princess. We were very very pleased with our cabin and felt immediately that there was something different about the atmosphere on this cruise (this was our 14th). The cabin steward was excellent but did not try to be "part of the entertainment" as we have seen on other lines. We love the open dining available and how that was made special by the addition of taking your dinner order, dressing up the tables with tablecloths and flowers - we ended up eating in the dining room on only two occasions the entire week as this alternative was so convenient. We are not much for late night entertainment but the couple shows we did attend were very good. I must say their private island is the most beautiful island we have ever been to and the sign that reads - "I wish I could stay here forever" was not far from the truth. The deck chairs on deck 3 reminded you of transatlantic ships seen in the movies and of course those wonderful robes that are in the staterooms were a very nice touch. ALL of the ships personnel went out of their way to make our week fun and very restful. My only criticism is the condition of some of the carpeting in some of the public areas - it seems a bit worn for a ship that is only a couple of years old. Also my husband pointed out how all the display cases in the halls and gift shop seemed to need some window cleaner (we have to laugh - it doesn't seem to bother us at all at home!!), and that is really just something we noticed and not anything that affected our trip... All in all we will definitely be back on HAL in the future and will probably limit our crusing to RCCL and HAL. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
We just returned from the Zuiderdam (3/20-27). Here's are pertinent information: Husband (37), wife (me 37), babysitter (20), daughter (7), sons (6 & 3). We flew on Spirit from Detroit to FLL, all went well. The ships decor did ... Read More
We just returned from the Zuiderdam (3/20-27). Here's are pertinent information: Husband (37), wife (me 37), babysitter (20), daughter (7), sons (6 & 3). We flew on Spirit from Detroit to FLL, all went well. The ships decor did not thrill me, nor did it sicken me. It was just not my taste & was not too appealing to me. My husband, commented several times that he couldn't believe the ship was only 2 years old, he didn't think it had "worn" well. But some things were just a shame. In the elevators, there was velvet padding the walls & teens (I'm guessing) would carve their names or initials or "hi", sometimes actually gouging the walls. I definitely overpacked, since there is free laundry for suite passengers (category S). My husband, 3 year old & I were in 6095 & sitter & 6 & 7 year old were in inside 6081. All on Upper Verandah deck. 6095 was smaller than what I thought was a comparable suite on the Veendam. On the Veendam, we were able to put the pack-n-play crib in the dressing area of the bathroom, but could not do so on the Zui. But the suite was very nice & we were pleased with how the accommodations worked out. 6081 (inside) worked fine for the little ones & the sitter. They mostly just slept there as the children & sitter used our suite as a base. "Heri" was an excellent room steward to both cabins & took care of us all effortlessly, quitely & efficiently. He was very pleasant. The Neptune Lounge Staff (Leezla & Wilma) were very nice & pleasant, but didn't have a lot of recommendations outside of what was already published or common knowledge. We used Room service several nights & had no problem, order was accurate, prompt & warm when it arrived. One night though when we called, someone said we could not get room service, because the dining room wasn't cooking any food? Instead of calling back or complaining we went up to the Lido deck & ate there, it was a fine alternative & really no problem. Our dining room waiter was Fendi he was very nice & did magic tricks for the children & even ordered their food in advance, VERY NICE touch. One night when the seas were rough, the children & sitter stayed in our suite & the dining room staff had the food sent to the children! Again very nice touch. We were at table 85 on the 2nd level & while there was some vibration (as my husband said, "to be expected when you are sitting over the propulsion system") it was not noticeable or annoying. On Thursday March 25, we were in VERY HIGH SEAS (18- 27 ft waves & gale force winds). The table rocked a little that night, but we, nor our dishes ever fell off onto the floor. Club Hal was terrific for our children. They had fun doing other things & had enough time to have fun with us too. I have no complaints about the staff they were very attentive & kind & the children were actually sad one day on the beach when they realized they were missing the "afternoon" activities. Daddy played more in the waves with them & they forgot about it. The older kids (teens) seemed not as excited about what Club Hal had to offer, just my impression. But again our 7 & 6 year old were happy. Our 3 year old shared his time with doting attention from his parents & favorite & trusted babysitter of 7 years. On Half Moon Cay the children participated in the "Pirate Hunt", they had fun, but my husband was a little shocked @ $22 per child, he thought I wasted the money there, but they did have fun & it was something they could tell us about. The 3 year old has several health issues & a few nights he was just not able to cope with the fancy dining, so we took turns staying back with him in the suite. We played in the casino one night, it was small but adequate... We went to 2 shows, they were also adequate, the juggler was funny! The Crow's Nest was nice, but it seemed no matter what drink I ordered they brought me the wrong one. The pools, were good, no problem with chairs or towels or rough children or cranky passengers. I went to the SPA one day (3/26) for my birthday. I have crazy, curly, kinky Irish hair & had it blown straight. A man (Lorenso) was the stylist & I have to admit, I don't frequent the SPA that much on any cruise line, this one was the worst. Usually it is relaxing to have your hair washed & dried by someone else, but he was rough & not too talkative or friendly. He did manage to get me with $38 of "product". I am sure other professionals in the SPA or other services were better. St. Thomas, was the same. Crowded! But lovely to see & browse & a little beach. Megans Bay is just too overrun! I have to try Sapphire Beach next time. Tortola, nearly broke our hearts. My husband & I spent 3 weeks of our honeymoon in 1995 "bare boat" sailing the BVI & Cane Garden Bay was something we so looked forward to returning to. Unfortunately, it is so commercial & just not what we remembered. AGAIN, we still & had fun & enjoyed taking the children to swim. EVEN IN THE RAIN! I also met a fellow "Cruise Critic" there, with her husband. That was neat & I look forward to hearing from her. The HIGH SEAS were something we never experienced before, but we didn't let it dampen our trip. It was certainly no fault of the ship or the crew. 18-27 foot seas! NUTS!!! I did have to go the the ships infirmary, with SINUS problems & the doctor fixed me right up. First time I ever did that on a cruise, but the staff their was very nice. The Catholic priest on board was character & made Mass an experience. Freeport, ended up being a pleasant surprise. We went to Lucaya Beach & had a pleasant, but windy day! All in all it was a great time & we are sad for the trip to be over. We look forward to sailing on HAL again. Things we would do differently: - pack less - find different beaches to go to when in St. Thomas & Tortola area. - have more room service. - the last morning, find better breakfast alternative than the Lido, we were late & there was nothing left to eat. We probably could have gotten room service or maybe gone to the Odyssey. With the children I didn't want to experiment too much with the Odyssey for breakfast or lunch for suite passengers. Good luck to all who may sail soon on the Zuiderdam, we hope you have a wonderful time. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
To avoid keeping you all in suspense as to our impression of this cruise let us just say, WOW. We are now hooked on cruising at sea as opposed to motorcycle cruising which I was already hooked on. This was only our third cruise and all ... Read More
To avoid keeping you all in suspense as to our impression of this cruise let us just say, WOW. We are now hooked on cruising at sea as opposed to motorcycle cruising which I was already hooked on. This was only our third cruise and all have met our needs for fun relaxation and while Diane may argue this point, romantic. It took three cruises to determine to wonderful times we had on the first two were not aberrations. We have booked another cruise for early November and started planning for next year's cruises. This might sound like a big deal to you but let me give you some personal background. Diane is one of many people who fears flying, riding in a car, any amusement ride that isn't equal to the Teacups or Small World rides at Magic Kingdom. On a carousel, it can't be the moving horse. The motorcycle cruising I mentioned earlier is Diane-less. I on the other hand have traveled extensively visiting every continent except Antarctica. Any fears I have are not relevant to this review. So, you ask, how did I get her to take this cruise? I must take you back four years when my parents, who at 80 years of age and very experienced cruisers, were booked on a cruise to and around Australia. Two weeks prior to sailing my father, who to that point was in reasonably good health, had a stroke, broken hip and heart attack all at one time. Needless to say, the cruise was cancelled and until November of 2003 he has not been able to cruise. My parents received an invitation to cruise with a group headed by Dr. James Kennedy with whom some of you will be familiar from television and/or his many books. My parents, especially my father, were very interested. They talked to my father's doctor who felt he was physically able to take the cruise as long as he had someone to watch over him besides my mother. They decided to make it a family affair by asking my three sisters and me along with our spouses to make the trip. Now it was just a matter of how was I going to get Diane to the ship? Some filler: We live about and hour drive -- with Diane make it two and a half hours, to the airport and then a 3 hour flight to Miami and then a half hour BUS ride to Ft. Lauderdale. Diane, for all her fears, knew how much it meant to me for my parents to be able to go on this cruise. She visited her doctor, got the appropriate amount of medication and, basically, psyched herself and got a huge amount of support and understanding from me. Oh, yeah there were those wonderful glasses (note plural) of red wine on the plane. OK, so now you know how Diane got there, what about the rest of the family? Two of my sisters were unable to make the trip and my father broke a blood vessel in his bladder one week before the cruise and my parents had to CANCEL. Let's get on with it now that you don't know whether to laugh, cry, or have sympathy for me or give-up on this review. Airport reception: The Holland America representative met us at the luggage claim area with a cart so we did not have to carry our luggage to the bus. As a matter of fact, she even pushed the cart to the bus waiting area. Talk about service with a smile. I tipped the bus driver as he loaded our luggage in the underneath compartment and guess whose luggage was on a cart with a porter as we disembarked the bus? While others were waiting for luggage and finding a porter (which is not difficult by any means, there are plenty at the terminal) we were walking directly to the check-in counter. Suggestion: Have all your paperwork filled out and documentation readily available. I did and we were walking up the gangway in less than 5 minutes. I saw others still filling out paperwork. Embarkation: OK, HAL makes money from the photography, but $20.95 for an embarkation picture! Absurd. All I want is a picture of Diane and me with the silly Zuiderdam life preserver on a stand. I don't need an 8X10 with a bunch of sea shells and starfish cluttering it up. We were greeted by a ship's officer, introduced to a steward who took us directly to our stateroom, Suite 8070 on the Navigation Deck. This was our first experience with a suite having only cruised twice previously. While the suite is "to die for," the price can limit the number of cruises we take. The primary reason this time was to be near my parents. Oh well, we loved it. Rather than break every day down, I will just categorize various aspects of the cruise. We did not take any excursion this cruise. We had planned a relaxing time without the hustle and bustle of excursion preferring to enjoy whatever the Zuiderdam had to offer as an alternative. Stateroom: As I mentioned earlier, we had a Deluxe Veranda Suite. It was everything we expected and more. We fully enjoyed the spaciousness. We used this cruise to relax and rejuvenate ourselves and spent quite a bit of time in our stateroom and on the verandah. Many feel for the amount of time spent in a stateroom, a suite is an unnecessary expense. I fully understand. As with selecting a cruise if you want to party, that's the ship you need to find, if you want to cruise Alaska, don't book a Caribbean cruise. We were offered an opportunity to extend our cruise another week at an unbelievable rate but no suites were available. We did look at the stateroom (Deluxe Outside w/ verandah. Quite honestly it was nice. It was larger than staterooms of that category on the other ships we have sailed. As I understand it, HAL is known for this). It took us until the next morning to decide it would not be possible due to home obligations. Ports: Half Moon Cay: The island is absolutely wonderful. Everything from the yellow archway at the entrance to the miniature village, to the thatch roofed bar to the lounge chaired beach, etc. is breathtaking. Diane and I said and heard many of guests reiterate the words on the sign located on the walkway to the beach "I could stay here forever." The HAL private island is serviced by tenders which in and of itself is a rather enjoyable experience. The crew is very efficient in loading passengers and getting back to the ship after an enjoyable day on the island was a breeze. No waiting on line or waiting for another tender. With the exception of waiting on the dinner line, waiting for the doors to open was the only line of ant significance all week. More on that under "Food." St. Thomas, US V.I.: We took one of the open air pick-ups to the center of town which we could probably have walked to faster but been a whole lot more tired. The town has lots of duty free shopping but I suggest you price electronics, cameras, etc. at home before you buy them here. I did and found most of it I could get in the states for the same price or better, especially with Internet shopping. The Port Shopping Ambassador, Richie, gave a seminar the night before the ship arrived in port. He gave lots of good information, so plan on attending if you will do any serious shopping. He can be found walking around St. Thomas to provide on-hand shopping assistance for Zuiderdam guests. Tortola, B.V.I: Again no excursions and I see this as a tourist trap wannabe. It's quaint and Diane and I had fun bartering with the vendors at the makeshift market at the dock. Nassau, Bahamas: Diane's heaven on earth. She just loves the aqua-blue water of the Bahamas. Again no excursions but the bartering with the straw market was fun. Food: Even with the extensive travel I have done, I am still a fussy eater. I don't eat this, I don't like that and don't ever put fish on my plate. That said, the food was tremendous, the service is everything it's cracked up to be and it only added to our enjoyment of the cruise. Breakfast: Each morning we had coffee delivered to our room. I don't wake-up until I've had at least two cups of coffee. Then, after planning our day, we dressed and went to the Lido Restaurant to eat. The way HAL has it set up is great. Multiple serving stations depending on what you desire. Eggs and omelets are prepared to order and the waiting was for the food to be cooked not waiting to order. We never ate breakfast in the main dining room. Lunch: Again a variety of places to eat. On Half Moon Cay a great barbecue buffet was prepared. They have numerous roofed patios with picnic tables to eat at. Diane absolutely loved the roasted chicken at the Lido Restaurant and would have been willing to subsist on only that all week. There is a grill poolside with hamburgers and hot dogs. I don't know what brand they are but they ain't McDonald's let me assure you. Dinner: I mentioned waiting on line earlier. We only did that the first night after that we did not leave our stateroom until 5:45 which was our seating time. When we got to the dining room there was no line and we went directly to our assigned table. Every night was something absolutely delicious. We ate all but one of our dinners at the main dining room with my sister and her husband and did not take advantage of the alternative restaurant but on our next cruise we will. The one dinner we did not eat in the Vista Dining Room was the BBQ Dinner poolside. The steaks were grilled to perfection. Entertainment: Vista Lounge: Generally speaking the entertainment was just OK. It was something to do so we did but the song and dance was something I could have missed and not been sorry. On the other hand there is Barnaby, the juggling comic. This guy is terrific and should not be missed. He involves the audience and the entire show is interactive. Don't miss him. Then there is James Cielen, a magician, and very good at it. Magic, or for you purists, illusionist, he was great. Magic has fascinated me for as long as I can remember. I never get tired of watching a magic act. Lounges and Disco: Very nice. The groups onboard are topnotch from the Crow's Nest to the Piano Bar to the Explorer Lounge. The Disco spins discs and you can make requests, which Diane did without hesitation. She even got things going with the Electric Slide. Poolside: I would be remiss in not mentioning the Reggae group at the Lido pool. They were terrific and Diane and I enjoyed basking in the sun to the music. Onboard Shopping: Great variety of items including everyday essentials, jewelry, tropical shirts, skirts and dresses, formal dresses, souvenirs and trinkets, etc. We felt pricing was very reasonable given our limited experience on other ships and cruise lines. $30 for a cruise line polo shirt on others was only $19 on the Zuiderdam. Not a big deal to you none smokers but they didn't have Diane's Virginia Slims. Good thing we brought 2 cartons with us. We couldn't find them at St. Thomas either. Photography: I won't spend a lot of time on this but will make some comments: 1. Give the guest what they want. If they want only a small 5X7 of them at embarkation, don't give them a 8X10 with a bunch of nonsense thrown in and then charge $20.95. 2. When you are a photographing a tall person back up so you don't cut off the top of my head (I'm 6'2"). There goes one picture by the ships photographer from formal night The photographers are everywhere. Going to the theater for the Meet the Captain night, we were stopped 3 times for pictures and held up at 1 spot so they could take somebody's picture. We missed getting to the line for a picture with the Captain which is something Diane and I want from each cruise. By the third day I stopped being polite about it and simply ignored them. Enough said and I got that off my chest. Staff: The staff is everything you could hope for except for the two occasions mentioned below. The room steward was super. We don't ask for much but the couple times we needed something he dealt with it immediately (the bathtub wasn't working properly when we went to dinner but an hour later it had been fixed when we returned). Wait Staff: Our Server and Assistant Server were great. They knew our wants and needs the first night and never had to be reminded. When I ordered one evening our server suggested I order something else -- apparently he overheard a comment I made earlier in the week. Remember, I'm a fussy eater. Three comments 1. A man and woman were attempting to use the Jacuzzi near the aft pool but it would not "do its thing." A couple of ship's officers (they had 3 gold bars on their epaulets) were relaxing at the bar which was closed. The woman approached them and explained her dilemma. One of the officers said he would contact the engineering officer, which I believe he did using a walkie talkie. Then the two officers went back to their discussion. At no time did either man advise the guests when someone was coming or even if anyone was coming to make necessary repairs. The guests finally left dissatisfied, I'm sure. 2. The second night out, I was in need of a men's room. After walking up and down the hallway near the theater, I asked a crew member where the men's room was located. "I'm not sure" was the response, then walked away. I decided to walk back to the dining room where I knew there was a men's room. The next day I located a men's room less than 30' from where I had encountered the crew member 3. Then there is Honkie Dorie at the Lido Restaurant. He prides himself on his ability to remember names. The first time he's talks with you he asks your name and puts it into memory. After that for the next 6 days, every time he saw Diane it was "Hi Diane" even if it was from afar. She would have to search the crowd to see who was saying hi to her. As for me, he got the K all right Hi, Ken, Kevin, Karl but I guess he was unfamiliar with the name Keith. He never did get it right. Passengers: The guests on the ship where what I consider an "older crowd." I only saw one baby and two young girls, around 8 or nine years of age, one being the onboard doctor's daughter on the ship. Diane and I enjoyed being able to relax at the pool without fear of children making to much noise or splashing us as we basked. Things got quiet early and some nights while walking the deck we thought everybody had abandon ship. If they had, they were missing a great cruise. But I would see them all the following morning jogging around the deck as we drank our third cup of coffee and smoked our fourth cigarette. Conclusion: You have now read the impressions of Diane and me. There were a few negative occurrences but the ship was beautiful, clean and well maintained, the food was tremendous and the service impeccable. Without a doubt, Diane and I rate this cruise a 9.999 out of a possible 10. We highly recommend the Zuiderdam and Holland America Cruise Line. If you got this far I guess the preamble was not to painful and you will benefit from what we have written. Any comments are requested and welcome via e-mail so I can avoid or expound on future reviews. Keep on cruising. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
This is a review of my cruise on the HAL Zuiderdam on 3/13/04. I was traveling with my 10 year old daughter. This was an Eastern Caribbean cruise departing from Fort Lauderdale. Embarkation was a breeze. The lines looked long, but we were ... Read More
This is a review of my cruise on the HAL Zuiderdam on 3/13/04. I was traveling with my 10 year old daughter. This was an Eastern Caribbean cruise departing from Fort Lauderdale. Embarkation was a breeze. The lines looked long, but we were processed and on board the ship in under a half an hour. We boarded about noon and headed up to the Lido dining room to grab a bite of lunch. First impressions of the Lido were very good. Rather than one long buffet line, there were several "stations" offering Chinese, Italian, a deli, and a "Bistro" line for the other food. This worked quite well to keep crowds to a minimum, however, as the cruise progressed, I did notice some room for improvements. More on that later. We ate on the aft deck by the pool. Although it was a bit windy, it made for a very relaxing start to the trip. The lifeboat drill was much more thorough than the one we experienced on Celebrity. HAL also had a wristband (or ankle band) for kids under 13 to wear that would identify their lifeboat stations so that they could be reunited with their parents in the event of an emergency. While I thought this was kind of a nice thought, my daughter thought otherwise, since she was the one having to wear the band. The ship - I didn't know what to expect - but I found that the colors were quite nice. The ship was large, but pretty easy to navigate. The directory posted at most elevators (all except the outside elevators) made finding things easy. The elevators (with the exception of the midship center elevators) were quick to respond and very fast between floors. The interiors of most elevators had a suede type of fabric that many seemed to enjoy writing things on. Unfortunately on a couple of elevators, someone decided to leave a more "permanent" mark by scratching the fabric. The outside promenade deck was very nice to walk - 3 times around the ship was a mile, and you were somewhat protected by the winds. The observation deck was okay, but often times rather windy. The cabin - It seems like everybody writes about the suite or verandah room that they had. This is a report from one in "steerage" - a main deck inside stateroom. I have to say that I was impressed. I was in a category K stateroom - main deck aft. The room was remarkably roomy, with two beds, a writing desk, a sofa and a nice sized bathroom. Noise was not a problem at all, and I was somewhat concerned because of the vibration stories I heard. This room was quiet - and motion was barely noticeable (we had a couple of days with "rough" seas). Dining - There were 2 early seatings and two late seatings in the main dining room, we were in the second early seating (6:15). This worked out well for us. Originally, my mother and sister were to join us on this trip, but my mother was taken ill a week before the cruise and the doctor orders were "no travel". So they cancelled. There were still two empty seats at our table for them. The second night, when going to the dining room, we noticed that a completely different group was sitting at our table, so I spoke to the maitre'd about this. Apparently, they received the notice that my sister (who shares my daughters name) had cancelled. So they thought it was us. We were given a new table rather quickly, and the maitre'd seemed to be servicing our table a bit more than the others. All in all, this "mistake" was handled very well. I can only compare service to my only other cruise, on Celebrity - the nod for food and service has to go to Celebrity in this case. While the food was good, I did not feel that it measured up to what we were served on Celebrity. Service also seemed to be a step behind Celebrity, although good, there were enough "little things", like the waiter remembering your name, that stood out. With one big exception. There was a waiter who worked the breakfast buffet line named Imam, or as most cruisers called him, "hunky dory". This gentleman made it a point to ask the names of everyone who came through his line. After that, he never missed addressing you by name whenever he saw you. He was given the moniker "hunky dory" because he'd wish everyone a "hunky dory day". Even in the main dining room, while having a cup of coffee with a friend at his table (neither of us had Imam as our waiter), he asked "Can I get you another cup of coffee, Joe?". HAL should realize what a jewel they have in this man. A note here about vibrations in the dining room. Some other posts indicated a "horrible" vibration in the main dining room. While I did notice a slight vibration, "horrid" is not the word I would use to describe it. It was noticeable, but not overwhelming. Club HAL - My daughter can be a bit shy at first, but I coaxed her up to Club HAL Sunday evening. She asked me to come get her in a half an hour. When I returned, she asked me to come back later. From that point on, I had a rough time keeping track of her. She was having the time of her life. The Club HAL staff was great - she met about 10 new friends her age, and they kept busy. Club HAL allows you to either have your child to come and go on their own (which I did), or they require that someone sign them in and out. They provide a "CD" packet with activities for the childs age group - kids 5 to 9, "tweens" from 10 to 13, and teens from 14-17. It was VERY well organized, and my daughter looked forward to "planning" her days on the Club HAL activities. Shows - We attended shows four of the seven nights. All were quite enjoyable, and suitable for adults and kids. Miscellaneous - There were bars everywhere, and the only thing that bothered me was that HAL didn't include a 15% gratuity for the wait staff. I don't carry cash with me on the ship and I felt bad that I couldn't give the waiter a tip on my room charge. From what I read, HAL will be changing this in May. It's for the better, in my opinion. Room for Improvement - I found only two areas that I felt had any need for improvement. First, the Lido for breakfast. I am an early riser, so these weren't problems for me - but my daughter woke at about 10:00 on our at sea days, and one half of the Lido was closed down - making for a rather long line on the other side to get breakfast. They should leave both sides open for a little longer. The second area was with the "Baked Alaska Parade". I had the "late-early" seating (6:15) in the main dining room. "parade" began about 6:45.the upper restaurant diners were most likely finished, but those of us in the later seating were still working on salads or entrees, certainly nowhere near finished eating, when the lights were dimmed and we were encouraged to clap along to the music as the baked Alaska was paraded. I'd suggest combining the seatings for that night - it just felt out of place to be doing this while many guests were still eating. All in all, this was a great cruise. The ship is very nice, the service was good, the itinerary was wonderful. I am sorely tempted to take this ship again in the near future. Out of 5 stars, I'd give it 4 and a half. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
My wife and I and another couple sailed on the Zuiderdam on March 6 to the Eastern Caribbean. This was our 28th cruise and 3rd time on Holland America (last one being on the Zaandam New Year's 2003). As many of the reviews had ... Read More
My wife and I and another couple sailed on the Zuiderdam on March 6 to the Eastern Caribbean. This was our 28th cruise and 3rd time on Holland America (last one being on the Zaandam New Year's 2003). As many of the reviews had mentioned previously this ship is a definite departure from the past Holland America ships. It is bright, cheerful and easy to get around. As with past ships there is plenty of passenger room around the ship and is never really crowded in any one place. Although visually different, it still keeps many of the things that are loved by the repeat customers. Embarkation We flew into Orlando to meet friends on Friday and then we all drove to Fort Lauderdale on Saturday. We arrived at the port around 12:00. Embarkation was a breeze and within 20 minutes we were on the ship. Although we could not go to our room at this point, they checked in our carry on bags and went off to the Lido for lunch. By 1:00 they had made the announcement that the rooms were ready. When we went to our rooms, our carry on luggage was already there. Our regular luggage arrived by 3:00. Rooms We had booked Category A balcony rooms next to one another (8031 & 8033). Our plan was to open up the door to the balcony between the two rooms. Since the wall on 8031 was on an angle, we were not able to do this. If you are planning on doing this make sure you have two rooms against a straight wall. The rooms were pretty standard, however smaller than we had on previous HAL ships. At the end of the bed there was only about 2 feet to the wall. The other thing that was lacking was drawers. You had the two in each nightstand and that was it. There is plenty of closet space and the ability to convert closets into shelves was very useful. The bathroom was standard with a tub and shower. There was also a sitting area with a love seat and desk area. The balcony was your standard size balcony with 2 chairs, an ottoman and small table. The chairs were not your typical plastic chairs and were very comfortable with the cushions provided. Passengers I know HAL has a reputation of having older passengers but I thought they were trying to go after the younger market with this ship since it will be in the Caribbean all year. In addition with this being spring break thought there would be younger people - well we were mistaken on that one. The average age had to be 70 to 75. We had breakfast with one couple who just celebrated her 90th birthday. We are in our mid 50's so we are not looking for an all night party scene but were looking for more than "walker races". Oh well we still had a great time on the ship. Food As with past HAL cruises the food was excellent at both the dining room and buffet. Good choices served hot (or cold) looking great. Our waiter in the dinning room was Tommy. We could not have asked for a better one. Great personality and service. The first night we asked for Iced Tea with extra lemons and it was there every night waiting of us. Some nights it was very difficult to choose what to have off the menu and I would ask Tommy to combine two items. There was also no problem getting additional portions. They have really done a good job with the lido buffet to eliminate lines. They have different stations set up (Italian, Wok, sandwiches, Salads, Standard buffet items, drinks, desserts) with all of these broken up you don't have big groups of people gathering in one place. In addition they have an additional area by the pool for Taco and fixings, and hamburgers and fries. They also have stations set up for breakfast depending on what you want. We never went to the specialty restaurant since we were very satisfied with the regular dining room. We also went to the ocean bar for before dinner drinks. Willie our waiter and Kevin who brought around the hot appetizers (and kept on refilling them) were lots of fun. After the second night, Willie would have our table "reserved". Ports of Call The ship stopped at the private island on the first day. The island is really beautiful and one of the best kept islands that we have been at. We were there almost all day so we saw no need to rush and had a leisurely breakfast and then headed over. We were thinking that we might have trouble finding loungers but not a problem as they had plenty for everyone. Our second stop was St Thomas one of our favorite places. We have been there over 15 times and still have a ball each time we go there. It is almost like our second home with our own taxi driver, jeweler, bartender, etc. We did do something different this time and took the Champagne Catamaran Cruise to St John's. I would rate this Fair at best. The boat was smaller than what we had been on before, you could not sit on the netting (half the fun of being on a catamaran). If you needed to use the rest room you had to ask people to move so you could lift this hatch door and climb down this ladder. To get out you had to bank on the door. They only had the sails up for about 10 minutes each way. Their "buffet" was a joke cheese, bread, chips, pretzels and fruit. St John's was beautiful and the beaches were great however next time we will take the ferry over and not spend $79 per person for this. Our next stop was Tortola. There is not much to say about this island since there is nothing there. We walked off the ship and walked into town (about a 10-minute walk) and in ½ hour we were ready to go back to the ship. We did not talk to any passenger who said they enjoyed this stop. Stay on the ship and consider it a day at sea. Entertainment We did not go to any of the shows, to be honest after 28 cruises when you've seen one show you've just about seen them all. However, talking to other passengers they did say the shows were good. Final Thoughts There seems to be a number of areas where items are additional charges such as using the Therapy pool ($15 per day), specialty coffees, etc. I understand that they are also going to start adding tips on to your bill ($10 per day per passenger and 15% on bar bill) although they did not do this on ours. I will miss rewarding the people who give us great service, however it is nice not to have to carry money in your bathing suit! We had a wonderful trip and would go on this ship again (in fact we are already planning it). You really feel like you are part of the family with the way you are treated and with everyone calling you by name. Any questions send me an email. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
This is a review of my cruise on the HAL Zuiderdam on 3/13/04. I was traveling with my 10 year old daughter. This was an Eastern Caribbean cruise departing from Fort Lauderdale. Embarkation was a breeze. The lines looked long, but we ... Read More
This is a review of my cruise on the HAL Zuiderdam on 3/13/04. I was traveling with my 10 year old daughter. This was an Eastern Caribbean cruise departing from Fort Lauderdale. Embarkation was a breeze. The lines looked long, but we were processed and on board the ship in under a half an hour. We boarded about noon and headed up to the Lido dining room to grab a bite of lunch. First impressions of the Lido were very good...rather than one long buffet line, there were several "stations" offering Chinese, Italian, a deli, and a "Bistro" line for the other food. This worked quite well to keep crowds to a minimum, however, as the cruise progressed, I did notice some room for improvements. More on that later. We ate on the aft deck by the pool. Although it was a bit windy, it made for a very relaxing start to the trip. The lifeboat drill was much more thorough than the one we experienced on Celebrity. HAL also had a wristband (or ankle band) for kids under 13 to wear that would identify their lifeboat stations so that they could be reunited with their parents in the event of an emergency. While I thought this was kind of a nice thought, my daughter thought otherwise, since she was the one having to wear the band. The ship - I didn't know what to expect - but I found that the colors were quite nice. The ship was large, but pretty easy to navigate. The directory posted at most elevators (all except the outside elevators) made finding things easy. The elevators (with the exception of the midship center elevators) were quick to respond and very fast between floors. The interiors of most elevators had a suede type of fabric that many seemed to enjoy writing things on. Unfortunately on a couple of elevators, someone decided to leave a more "permanent" mark by scratching the fabric. The outside promenade deck was very nice to walk - 3 times around the ship was a mile, and you were somewhat protected by the winds. The observation deck was okay, but often times rather windy. The cabin - It seems like everybody writes about the suite or verandah room that they had. This is a report from one in "steerage" - a main deck inside stateroom. I have to say that I was impressed. I was in a category K stateroom - main deck aft. The room was remarkably roomy, with two beds, a writing desk, a sofa and a nice sized bathroom. Noise was not a problem at all...and I was somewhat concerned because of the vibration stories I heard. This room was quiet - and motion was barely noticeable (we had a couple of days with "rough" seas). Dining - There were 2 early seatings and two late seatings in the main dining room, we were in the second early seating (6:15). This worked out well for us. Originally, my mother and sister were to join us on this trip, but my mother was taken ill a week before the cruise and the doctor orders were "no travel". So they cancelled. There were still two empty seats at our table for them. The second night, when going to the dining room, we noticed that a completely different group was sitting at our table, so I spoke to the maitre d' about this. Apparently, they received the notice that my sister (who shares my daughters name) had cancelled. So they thought it was us. We were given a new table rather quickly, and the maitre d' seemed to be servicing our table a bit more than the others. All in all, this "mistake" was handled very well. I can only compare service to my only other cruise, on Celebrity - the nod for food and service has to go to Celebrity in this case. While the food was good, I did not feel that it measured up to what we were served on Celebrity. Service also seemed to be a step behind Celebrity, although good, there were enough "little things", like the waiter remembering your name, that stood out. With one big exception...there was a waiter who worked the breakfast buffet line named Imam, or as most cruisers called him, "hunky dory". This gentleman made it a point to ask the names of everyone who came through his line. After that, he never missed addressing you by name whenever he saw you. He was given the moniker "hunky dory" because he'd wish everyone a "hunky dory day". Even in the main dining room, while having a cup of coffee with a friend at his table (neither of us had Imam as our waiter), he asked "Can I get you another cup of coffee, Joe?". HAL should realize what a jewel they have in this man. A note here about vibrations in the dining room. Some other posts indicated a "horrible" vibration in the main dining room. While I did notice a slight vibration, "horrid" is not the word I would use to describe it. It was noticeable, but not overwhelming. Club HAL - My daughter can be a bit shy at first, but I coaxed her up to Club HAL Sunday evening. She asked me to come get her in a half an hour. When I returned, she asked me to come back later. From that point on, I had a rough time keeping track of her...she was having the time of her life. The Club HAL staff was great - she met about 10 new friends her age, and they kept busy. Club HAL allows you to either have your child to come and go on their own (which I did), or they require that someone sign them in and out. They provide a "CD" packet with activities for the childs age group - kids 5 to 9, "tweens" from 10 to 13, and teens from 14-17. It was VERY well organized, and my daughter looked forward to "planning" her days on the Club HAL activities. Shows - We attended shows four of the seven nights. All were quite enjoyable, and suitable for adults and kids. Miscellaneous - There were bars everywhere, and the only thing that bothered me was that HAL didn't include a 15% gratuity for the wait staff. I don't carry cash with me on the ship and I felt bad that I couldn't give the waiter a tip on my room charge. From what I read, HAL will be changing this in May. It's for the better, in my opinion. Room for Improvement - I found only two areas that I felt had any need for improvement . First, the Lido for breakfast. I am an early riser, so these weren't problems for me - but my daughter woke at about 10:00 on our at sea days, and one half of the Lido was closed down - making for a rather long line on the other side to get breakfast. They should leave both sides open for a little longer. The second area was with the "Baked Alaska Parade". I had the "late-early" seating (6:15) in the main dining room. "parade" began about 6:45...the upper restaurant diners were most likely finished, but those of us in the later seating were still working on salads or entrees...certainly nowhere near finished eating, when the lights were dimmed and we were encouraged to clap along to the music as the baked Alaska was paraded. I'd suggest combining the seatings for that night - it just felt out of place to be doing this while many guests were still eating. All in all, this was a great cruise. The ship is very nice, the service was good, the itinerary was wonderful. I am sorely tempted to take this ship again in the near future. Out of 5 stars, I'd give it 4 and a half. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2004
I LOVED THIS CRUISE! I read the reviews on this cruise that were posted on this web sight and I'll admit, I was disappointed that I had even booked this cruise! DON'T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU READ! The ship is BEAUTIFUL. Food is ... Read More
I LOVED THIS CRUISE! I read the reviews on this cruise that were posted on this web sight and I'll admit, I was disappointed that I had even booked this cruise! DON'T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU READ! The ship is BEAUTIFUL. Food is magnificent. The entertainment is the BEST on the Caribbean. (Bob Macky costumes- Who can top that?) The passengers were somewhat older than other cruises we've been on but who cares? After 11:00 pm, we had the ship and staff to ourselves. I do hope they do some advertising to target a younger crowd just to diversify the crowd a little more but there were several children on the ship, but not so many they were in anyway annoying to anyone. The children were loving the kids program, CLUB HAL, and the Young people 18-25 seemed to have a great time as well! This is our SHORT list of suggestions to make it a better cruise: Get proper pedicure equipment if you are going to offer onboard pedicures. ( I suggest getting a pedicure before you go.. No pedicure throne) Have more of a party atmosphere when you have a "Party" (The party now consists of a sign that say PARTY- 1/2 PRICE DRINKS) We were with a group of 10 people ranging in age of 70-25. We all had a great cruise and would have loved to stay another week to do all of the things we missed because there were so many things to do! you'll have a blast if you choose this ship! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2004
Enjoyed the Zuiderdam. Had heard many stories of vibrations in the dining room, horrible decor and service, but none of these were on my cruise. Decor was very European with traditional HAL art and a splash of art deco. I would compare ... Read More
Enjoyed the Zuiderdam. Had heard many stories of vibrations in the dining room, horrible decor and service, but none of these were on my cruise. Decor was very European with traditional HAL art and a splash of art deco. I would compare the decor to those that I've seen in Milan or Venice. Service was wonderful overall. The Vista dining room was excellent. Waitstaff attentive but unobtrusive. Food was actually impressive and delicious. I would like mine a bit more seasoned but with 900 or so people I think it is difficult to please all tastes. Of 15 cruises it was the best food we've had. Wine steward/drink service was great. Although we had rough seas there were no vibrations in the lower Vista dining room. Dry dock must have taken care of the problem. The Odyssey was another story. I was expecting four star service and food - not to be had! Out of six of us, 5 had filet mignon. Two were passable, the other 3 were shoe leather. The steaks we had at the BBQ on deck were just as good. I was expecting Ruth's Cris - maybe I set my expectations too high? The sixth person had lamb - the Vista dining room's lamb was much better. The side dishes were passable - creamed spinach normally a favorite of everyone, needed help - I wanted to go show the chef how to make it! I felt the same way with the molten chocolate cake - it was overcooked just a chocolate cake all the way through. I wanted to show the chef how to make that also:) Also, when we sat down at the table, my water and red wine glasses had chips - that sort of thing happens - but I should not have had to ask twice for new glasses! One person was through with his main course when his Diet Sprite finally came to the table. My recommendation is not to waste the 20 dollars - pre-book for 10 the first nite if you must really go. The atmosphere and decor was quite nice. I was impressed with the Lido, if Lido "buffet" dining can be impressive...Great variety from deli selections, pizza, custom pasta dishes, oriental, curry, sushi, ice cream,dessert etc. Breakfast omelet station was great. Seating is nice - broken up to give you a small restaurant feel. I loved all the different public rooms. So many places to gather and socialize. I had a BA category with balcony. Plenty of closet space that could be converted to shelves or hanging space. Shower/tub combo was nice. Ours didn't drain well the first day - Eddy our cabin steward had maintenance in right away and it was taken care of. He was wonderful - he would pick up our clothes and fold them - even arranged my daughters toys in her crib. I would sail this ship again in a minute - as soon as I have more vacation time! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2004
Just returned from a President's Week sailing on the M/S Zuiderdam to the Eastern Caribbean. Background: We are married 34 y/o professionals (a healthcare business manager and a high school history teacher). We're relatively ... Read More
Just returned from a President's Week sailing on the M/S Zuiderdam to the Eastern Caribbean. Background: We are married 34 y/o professionals (a healthcare business manager and a high school history teacher). We're relatively experienced leisure travelers (throughout Europe, non-cruise Caribbean, and throughout US), though this was just my 2nd cruise (was on Carnival's Sensation in the early-mid '90s) and my wife's first. General Impression: The value was quite high considering the reasonable price we paid for a holiday week in the winter. Although the food and service were really quite good, they didn't meet my high expectations based on my research into HAL. If readers are looking for a ship with non-stop entertainment and pulsing nightlife...they should look elsewhere. (Note this isn't a flame/complaint! Merely saying that the demographics on this ship seemed to be at least 75% retirement-age folks, with a smattering of middle agers and their families. We seemed to be the youngest couple aboard that wasn't attached to retired family members. Flight/Embarkation: HAL routed us on a 9:45 AM flight from Newark (our home airport) to FLL. Check-in was a nightmare, owing to increased security measures (we had to personally accompany each of our checked bags- individually- through the X-Ray check. (This was after paying $25 per bag for 2 bags that were about 2 lbs overweight each. C'est la vie...we were on vacation!) Once the plane was loaded and pushed away from the gate (on time), we were advised that ATC problems were going to force us to spend 45-60 minutes in the "ballpark" before final taxi/takeoff. Not an auspicious beginning, but not really anyone's fault. Once we arrived at FLL, we were immediately met by a uniformed HAL staffer at baggage claim, checked in, and moments later squired to the bus for the transfer to the pier. The bus driver, after loading all of the bags and pax, commented that the trip to the pier was only 7 minutes away, but it would be the longest 7 minutes of our lives. Boy, was he right! It seemed more like 30-45 minutes, on a 25-year old bus with A/C that was lukewarm at best. Once we arrived we, waited on line for less than 10 minutes before being checked in. We booked a BB Guarantee, were upgraded to a B, and ushered onto the ship. HAL really has a pretty smooth shoreside operation- VERY different from my memorial of CCL's 3 hour wait in a dark, overcrowded warehouse. Cabin: We were assigned cabin #5025 on the Verandah Deck. It was a cat "B" with a verandah, located on the starboard side forward. Fairly quiet location, well away from elevators/stairwells, service areas, and traffic patterns. The room was decorated in nice yellows and reds, with wonderful art on the walls (2 bold green and red botanical prints at the foot of the queen sized bed, and a gorgeous impressionist print of Venice over the loveseat.) In addition, there was a smallish easy chair, an ottoman, and a vanity table in the adequately-sized cabin. The fairly spacious bathroom had the usual vacuum toilet and shower/tub combo (with superb water pressure/temperature regulation IMHO). There was plenty of storage space, but it just seemed very bland and institutional. Storage included more than ample hanging space, a digital safe, lockable bedside tables, and "hidden" drawers that we didn't find until the cruise was half over- located under the bed and under the loveseat. There was even space inside the ottoman. Our cabin steward (Jutu?) was invisible, but nonetheless efficient. Dining: Let me begin by saying that our expectations were very high regarding the quality of the food on HAL, so any negative tone here is more an expression of my slight disappointment than saying the food is no good. We were assigned a late (8:30) seating at table 192 in the lower Vista dining room, all the way aft. The oval table was a bit small for a table for 6, but we managed OK. The vibrations we read about in earlier reviews, while there, were really not that much of a big deal. The menus were quite varied, with an old standby and something innovative available each night. The quality of the food was excellent...though just shy of our expectations. Our servers (Sonny and Dilly), while competent, made no attempt ro build a relationship with anyone at our table, despite our attempts. Beyond a nodded "hello," no other communication- not "how was your day?", not "are you enjoying your vacation so far?", etc. The interesting irony is that our wine steward (Neil), who knew precious little about wine (he recommended Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio for a couple who were ordering venison and rack of lamb), was the most charming person we encountered on the vessel. He engaged each of us at length each evening about what we had done with our day, and how we were enjoying ourselves. When we ordered wine, it was efficiently and professionally opened and served. Though not really "Dining" per se, the drinks were reasonably priced (by NYC standards!), but the mixed/frozen drinks were made from premade mixes, and always tasted watered down. The coffee available in the specialty cafe (for an additional fee, of course) was really great, and a great bargain at less than $2 for a large specialty coffee drink. The Odyssey dining room merits special mention. For an additional $20 per person, diners are treated to exquisite table settings (Rosenthal china, fine crystal, sterling silver) and food and service FAR superior to the Vista dining rooms. The meal we ate there was incredible...perfectly cooked dry-aged steaks (right up there with Peter Luger in my opinion!), special wines, and attentive, unobtrusive service. Not to be missed at any cost! Entertainment/Night life: It really seemed like they "rolled up the sidewalks" after about 11PM on the ship. Apart from the mediocre "Zuiderdam Cast" shows, there was also a very entertaining magician (James Cielen), and a fun late-night presentation of cultural dances and song by Filipino members of the crew. The major "craic" (Irish for "good times") to be had was usually before dinner in the Ocean Bar, where a pretty good jazz combo played standards, and they served complimentary hors d'ouvres. We stopped their for a lengthy drink each night before dinner, and enjoyed the people-watching. (Also notable were Ocean bar servers Alvin and Mel (who gave us a cute little origami fish personalized with our names and the ship's). The casino seemed to be only sporadically crowded, with rarely anyone at the craps table. The venues for after-dinner entertainment (Northern Lights disco, with bold Gateway-like cow prints; Crow's Nest, cigar bar, etc.) were almost always nearly empty after 11 or so. Ports of Call/Excursions: Half-Moon Cay, a highlight of the trip for us, is HAL's private island in the Bahamas. After tendering ashore, we rented snorkel gear ($16 apiece was quite steep!) and found a spot on the left side of the beach, near the snorkel area and the jetty for the tender dock. We were lucky to come ashore early, as with the Volendam sharing the Cay with us, it got crowded after about 11AM. The snorkeling was OK...water was warm and clear, but few fish and no corals to be found. We stopped for a drink and a quick meal, and tendered back. The tender actually crashed into the hull of the ship on docking...to the point of several officers coming down to investigate the damage (none, really). It was pretty scary, though, as my wife an I were seated right at the impact point. Next we visited St. Thomas. Since we're not big shopping fans, we paid a cab driver (Basil,$25) for a tour of the island. It was pretty thorough, and nice, with great views of Magen's Bay and the Havensight docks. We also bought a few pieces of Larimar, that beautiful light blue, opaline caribbean gemstone. The Carnival Triumph, Coral Princess, and a Silversea ship (?) were all in port with us. We also called on Road Town, Tortola, in the BVI. We booked a HAL shore excursion, and were glad we did, since the pickings are pretty scarce in Road Town proper. For $49, we were shuttled to the other side of town where we boarded a snorkel boat and were fitted for gear. After a 15 minute boat ride, we arrived at The Caves on Norman Island. Allegedly, Robert Louis Stevenson based his book Treasure Island on this spot. Either way, the snorkeling was amazing...crystal water, and thousands of fish- all of different varieties. There was even several types of hard and soft corals, including brain, gorgonian, organ-pipe, etc. Not to be missed. Nor to be missed is the free-flowing rum punch served up on the way back! A great day! Next up was Nassau. Since we're aquarium buffs, we took a water taxi to Paradise Island and took the Atlantis tour. The ferry ride was disturbing at best. The boat was overcrowded and the "tour guide" did nothing but shout inconsequential little facts over the loud engine noise (went quite well with the strong exhaust fumes!). Next time, a taxi with wheels for me, thanks! Atlantis charges a steep $25 a head for the privilege of touring their grounds...I'm not sure it's worth THAt much, but the aquariums are literally stunning. Well worth the trip...even if you're not playing at the $500 minimum blackjack tables! Activities: We attended the 3 Art Auctions held. Interesting and great fun, but the higher prices eliminated the "auction" element, and pretty much guaranteed that anyone willing to pay the price could get the artwork at opening bid. There was an exciting twist, however, called a "Polar Bear." I'll leave it at that for now...be surprised. The auctioneer, Tom, was entertaining. The checkout process was incredibly long and arduous. We also took the tour of the Galleys. Billed as a 20-30 minute tour, it took more like 7-8 minutes...and besides a brief watermelon carving demo, all we really saw were empty stainless steel counters. A word about Security: We found security to be quite tight on the ship, as well as in the ports. At Port Everglades, there was a security checkpoint where the bus had to show ID to a Broward Sheriff's officer to gain access to the complex, and there were police boats patrolling the waters continually. Each time we left the ship, we had to scan our key/ID/charge card, which displayed a digital photo. Each time we returned, we had to do the same, as well as pass through a metal detector and have our bags x-rayed. In addition, we had to show our ship's ID cards to even enter the pier areas in Tortola and Nassau. We felt quite safe. Recommendation: I recommend sailing on the Zuiderdam if you're not looking for excitement or varied nightlife. For the almost-/semi-/retired set, this ship is a wonderful choice! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2004
We arrived at Ft. Lauderdale the same day the ship sailed, at 10:30 a.m. We had to wait at the airport at least 45 minutes before we were led to the transfer bus to the pier. It was a short bus trip, however we were a full bus, so it was ... Read More
We arrived at Ft. Lauderdale the same day the ship sailed, at 10:30 a.m. We had to wait at the airport at least 45 minutes before we were led to the transfer bus to the pier. It was a short bus trip, however we were a full bus, so it was another 10-15 minutes until we could point out our luggage and leave it in the hands of the porters. We will definitely take our own taxi to the pier next time. Embarkation was wonderful. We were booked in a Deluxe Verandah Suite on the Roterdam deck and they had a special counter for us to go to. We were on the ship in about 10 minutes. We were greeted by several ship officers and escorted to our suite. I cannot say enough about the Deluxe Verandah Suite. It was absolutely beautiful, with a large balcony and spacious bathroom with double sinks and a jacuzzi tub and separate glassed-in shower. The closets were very large, we each had our own "double" closet, loads of drawer space, so much we didn't even use it all. I loved the vanity table and mirrors off the bathroom as well. The Suite amenities for the S category and PS category are awesome. We especially enjoyed the fresh cafe latte in the Neptune lounge where the two gals that ran the concierge desk there were of help to us constantly. We booked the "pink" cabana as soon as we got on board and enjoyed the day at Half Moon Cay the next day in total luxury. Our cabana boys who were from the pool deck were wonderful. The cabana was ready for us at 9:00 a.m. with a stocked cooler of soft drinks and beer. Our lunch was brought to us by the cabana boys, and they had ready for us two dips, one salsa the other guacamole with chips, which they checked on throughout the day. The service was excellent, the island beautiful and it was my favorite "port of call". We were at the first seating in the dining room, at a table for two on the upper level. Although the service and food was very good, we fell in love with the "alternative" restaurant, the Pinnacle Grill, and we ended up eating 5 out of 7 dinners there. It is well worth the price of $20.00 per person, and with our wine bill, it was quite a bit more, but the service and food served were 5 star. These dinners put the frosting on the cake for us during this cruise. As we had been to St. Thomas and Tortola and Nassau numerous times, we decided to stay on board those port days and enjoy the ship and our suite. We had purchased the spa/thermal suite package for $100/per person for the week which gave us unlimited visits to the hydro pool and the thermal suite with the reclining heated ceramic sofas. Total indulgence in relaxation is the best description of our cruise. We slept wonderfully on feather pillows (by request), ate breakfast and lunch in the Pinnacle grill (a suite amenity at no charge) spent hours on our spacious balcony watching the ocean, napping and reading in the comfortable chairs w/ ottomans, enjoyed the casino in the evening after dinner, as well as a few shows which were very good. We are finding that what we enjoy most about cruising is booking a suite and enjoying the ocean on a beautiful ship. The days at sea are our favorite. I would recommend the Zuiderdam to anyone and we have fallen in love with Holland America. Having been on Celebrity, Princess, Carnival, Royal Carribean, Crystal and SilverSea we feel the Holland America Vista class ships are the biggest bang for the buck in a suite accommodation. Disembarkation went very smoothly for us and we took a taxi to the airport. The airport in Ft. Lauderdale is an absolute "zoo" when all the cruise ships come in. We stood in line for 45 minutes for curb-side checkin (it was longer inside) and then another 30 minutes to go through security with hundreds of cruise passengers going home at the same time. I truly feel it would be better to overnight in Ft. Lauderdale on a Sunday, and fly home. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2004
March 4, 2004 EASTERN CARIBBEAN - MS ZUIDERDAM REVIEW Hi. It's Dan and Judy (Judy writing). We went on our second cruise recently on the Holland America Lines ms Zuiderdam to the Eastern Caribbean on February 21 through 28, 2004. ... Read More
March 4, 2004 EASTERN CARIBBEAN - MS ZUIDERDAM REVIEW Hi. It's Dan and Judy (Judy writing). We went on our second cruise recently on the Holland America Lines ms Zuiderdam to the Eastern Caribbean on February 21 through 28, 2004. This time we traveled with another couple, my sister Cathy and her husband of 30 years, Joe. This was their fifth cruise. Our ages range from 39 to 54. We're all from the San Fernando Valley area, north of Los Angeles. All in all, we had a wonderful time and the scenery was beautiful! Getting There We booked our own airline reservations on line, not with HAL. We departed LAX for Ft. Lauderdale on Song Air (a subsidiary of Delta) on Friday night at 10:30 p.m. Yes, the good old red-eye! Song Air doesn't have pillows to hand out to their passengers, but you can pay $5 for a blow-up one! We arrived in Fort Lauderdale at 6:00 a.m., loaded up our luggage onto two carts ($2 each), and waited till Holland America representatives appeared at about 10:30 to transfer us to the ship. The 4-½ hour wait in the airport was excruciating. We discovered a Chili's restaurant in Terminal 2, so we had breakfast to pass the time and pump us up. They have seating at the front of the restaurant, on a "patio", so we were able to park our luggage carts right next to us. By the way, the airport was freezing! Keep a sweater or jacket with you. At about 11:00, the transfer to the ship went very smoothly. It's a 5- or 10-minute ride to the port. Inside was not too crowded and boarding the ship went quickly and smoothly. Once on board (yeah!), we had a great welcome from a line-up of uniformed staff personnel. I thought that was a nice touch to make everyone feel welcome. The Ship -- My first reaction to the interior of the ship was "Wow!" I loved the bright colors and contemporary design. The carpets are beautiful (if you like wild). The elevator doors are glamorous. There are also more "classic" areas, but most of the ship is quite bright and colorful with modern art displayed in the hallways. Once aboard, we started unpacking. Before you even leave port, the muster (showing you where to go and what to do in an emergency) is conducted. It got WAY too hot standing out there with everyone piled into a small area at the lifeboats at 4:00 in the strong sun! At this point, we had been awake for 34 hours (except for maybe a couple of hours of restless napping on the airplane) and our hearts just weren't in it! The ship was very large (935 feet, with 1,824 passengers and 800 crew). I had trouble getting around, feeling like a rat in a maze. It seems it was just too easy to get lost. It's a good thing they had nice signs at the elevators, one listing the areas located on that particular floor, and one with a map showing all of the area locations. The only thing that seemed to confuse me was what elevator I took. Was it the aft, mid-ship, or the stern? Sounds simple enough, but it baffled me several times. The hallways are SO long, you lose track of where you are. I'm sure I'm not the only one that thought my key card wasn't working when I tried to get into the wrong stateroom! Speaking of which. . .my cruise/key card did stop working. It wouldn't unlock my cabin door. I went to the front desk and they told me to keep it away from magnets. I couldn't imagine what magnets I had been near, but they fixed it and I put it back into my purse and left. Just a few minutes later I tried to use it and it didn't work again. Hello! My purse had a magnetic snap! So just passing it by the snap on its way into the purse was enough to erase it. I had to either keep it in my pocket, or tuck it into my sock. Wearing a holder around your neck might be a good idea. At mid ship, on both sides, are glass elevators that go up and down the outside. I loved them. The view was spectacular! And they also helped me navigate the ship, knowing that if I saw them, I was at the mid point. From what I've seen on websites, it seems that staterooms are typically orange and gold. I want different colors! When I saw the public areas of the ship with bright colors, I was hoping the cabin would be also. But guess what? Orange and gold! Oh well. We had type B Deluxe Veranda Rooms on the 5th floor, next door to each other. They were a nice size with a sitting area and twin beds configured as a queen. Our friendly room steward, Freddy, took down the divider between our verandas for us so that we had one long veranda. It was quite private otherwise. No one from above could see us, nor from below, and obviously, the folks on the sides could only see us if they peeked around their walls. Our room was exactly in line with the forward bank of elevators. Handy, but we did hear the constant dinging of the elevators, and of course, the voices and laughter of any happy passengers. The bathroom was nice, with an almost full-size tub and a nice shower head that was fully adjustable. It was quite dark in the shower when you drew the curtain closed. I started not closing it all the way and being careful not to flood the floor. Not that you have to see too much in the shower, but I'm pretty blind without my contacts to begin with, so any light helps. The closet space was great, plenty of room for hanging up clothes and a lot of shelf space. But not enough hangers. I always bring some with me since I tend to over-pack ever so slightly! A full length mirror was attached to the inside of one of the closet doors. And I loved having the safe in the closet. The coffee table in front of our couch was totally movable and height-adjustable, which we didn't realize till the last day! I was surprised that the window door to the veranda is not a slider, but a regular glass door with a full-length window next to it. And there's a sign that asks you to keep it closed at all times. I like to leave it open and let the breeze blow through, so that bothered me a tad. The lighting in the room was a little on the dim side for me. We found the bed to be quite comfy, and the pillows were great; fluffy and soft. We took a travel alarm. I can't believe they don't have clocks in the rooms. Wake-up calls don't do me much good without a snooze button to bang on a few times! I like having the hair dryer at the desk in the sitting area; inside the bathroom would get a little claustrophobic, but it is kind of a drag for the person that's into a movie on the TV while you dry your hair. As always, we took an extension cord with extra plug-ins so that I could have my fan, hair blower/curler, and curling iron going at the same time. Seems there's never enough plugs for my daily regimen. And don't forget the cell phone charger (which I don't think ever worked anyway) and the battery charger for the digital camera. We had a fully-stocked refrigerator, which was great at night when you didn't feel like leaving the room to get a soda. Yes, we were charged for any items used, but it was very convenient and re-stocked magically every day. We didn't realize that our ice bucket was full of ice until the last night. A couple of times I wondered where the ice machines were. I guess they took care of it. I enjoyed filling out the breakfast card at night and having them deliver my food at my requested time in the morning. Everything was good except the scrambled eggs - weird consistency and not too tasty. Someone else complained about the eggs too. The buffet area on the Lido Deck was very pretty. Again, I loved the colors. There was a large variety of food from which to choose, and it seemed there was always pizza available. There was a very large beverage station, which had tea, coffee, juices, water, but no sodas. I got tired of having to go out to the bar to get a Coke. Just a small inconvenience. In the mornings, the bars were not open, so no Coke was available. Yes, I'm a frustrated Coke-aholic! The casino was very nice and quite large. We had pretty good luck at the black jack tables ($5 minimum tables), and the dealers were all quite friendly and helpful. We're not much for slots, so I can't comment on that action. The people at the craps tables seemed to be having lots of fun. One thing that I missed was having an ATM in the casino. The other ship we were on had one, so we were counting on it. I was surprised they didn't have one, if they want people to keep spending money! I believe we could have had gone to the front desk and gotten cash if we added it to our room charge. We found an ATM on Tortola, which, to our surprise it gave us $100's, $50's, and $10 bills, not the usual $20's we get locally. Fifties can be a little inconvenient for cab fare and tips. On the last night of the cruise we realized that we didn't have enough appropriate change for tipping everyone, so Dan went to the money cage at the casino and they gave him change for the large bills. The thermal suite was very pretty. We never actually used it. Dan and I walked in one day and asked about it, but when we found out that the pool in there is 98.6 degrees, Dan wanted to sit out in the Jacuzzi instead. We sat out in the Jacuzzi in the late afternoon under some shade. It was wonderful. He thought that the Jacuzzi wasn't hot enough, but I liked it. I thought that the regular pool wasn't hot enough. After we sat in the Jacuzzi, we decided to play ping pong on one of the three tables next to the pool. We had a great time! Neither of us had played in years. My sister and I had scalp and foot massages at the spa. We agreed that the scalp massages weren't that great. Too much attention to pressure points and squeezing our heads like melons. Not enough scratching and rubbing! The foot massages were heavenly. Especially after a long day of heavy-duty shopping in St. Thomas the day before! If you go to get a massage, make sure you take cash with you for a tip. It cannot be added to your room charge. And for you larger folks, keep in mind that the robes only come in that great "one size fits all." You may want to bring your own if that may be of concern to you. The covered pool on the Lido deck was nice, but I think that the large polar bear statues at one end are rather hokey. Somehow I kept thinking they should be on a ship that cruises Alaska, not the Caribbean. The pool on the top deck was nice, but again, it had a rather juvenile throne thing at one end. There were very few children on our ship, but the few that were there wore ankle i.d. bracelets. Apparently the ship requires it for anyone under 12 years of age. Next to the pool was a taco bar, which I heard someone say wasn't too bad. I never tried it. There is also a grille that serves hot dogs, hamburgers, and french fries. The outside bar next to the pool had beautiful brass stools that were inverted fish and you actually sat on their tails. They were beautiful, but there was about 12 inches between each stool, making it nearly impossible for anyone but super-models to get between the seats! The bartender was not too friendly. I think he had a personal vendetta against non-tipping Coke-card carriers. Coke cards are a great invention. Sort of. I thought they were a little expensive on this ship, $27. We went to the first bar we found and asked for three of them. They gave us a separate card to carry around, which was an odd-sized piece of paper. I preferred the sticker that was affixed to your cruise card on our other cruise. Much more convenient. And this card limits you to only a glass of Coke. (They use cans of Coke on this cruise, but you can't have one, except with dinner.) The main dining room was very nice. We had late seating on the lower level, a table for the four of us each night. I had read some complaints about the vibration near the back of the dining room, so we requested a table near the front. It wasn't too bad. For late seating, the upper level seats at 8:15 and the lower level seats at 8:30. I believe the early seating is at 6:15 and 6:30. The service was wonderful. Our head server, Rachman, was very friendly and brought us whatever, or however much we wanted. The assistant, Abu, was very nice and attentive also. Our Cokes were waiting at the table when we arrived every night. And Rachman always remembered our favorite dessert (fan cookies/wafers) and would bring us a plate of them without our asking. Cathy loves Caesar salad and wanted it every night. They were happy to accommodate her, even though it wasn't on the menu every night. And if you wanted more than one serving of something, just speak up! It was great. If three appetizers or entrees sounded good, you didn't have to choose only one! Have 'em all! The food was very good. I especially loved the flourless chocolate cake. I really didn't know what to expect, but it was amazing! Very dark, creamy chocolate. Great with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The "final" dinner, the night before the last night of the cruise, was great. The staff sang a song and all the servers marched through the dining rooms with Baked Alaskas lighting up the room with sparklers. It was a lot of fun. On our last cruise we chose personal choice dining, which was very handy, but not as fancy and certainly you weren't spoiled as you are with traditional dining. We ate one night at The Odyssey. There's a $20 charge per person. Worth it. We all had filet mignon, which was excellent. Dan was disappointed that they didn't have lobster on the menu. Our service was pretty good. The dEcor was very nice, except for the large lighted fruit/cheese pictures on the walls, which kind of reminded us of Denny's. But I think I actually preferred being spoiled in the main dining room. There were many different bars with many different types of music. One bar next to the casino had sports on several TV's and allowed smoking. There was a nice piano bar (non-smoking) right next to the casino that I enjoyed going into and singing along to the music while Dan gambled. Northern Lights (the disco) was on the other side of the casino, featuring different types of music (70's, 80's, etc.) on different nights. The Crow's Nest had a trio playing most of the time. I only went into the Queen's Lounge once to see some line dancing and listen to country music. There is a semi-covered seating area outside on the Lido Deck for smoking cigars after dinner. The main showroom was very nice. Dan and I saw two big production shows. The first one was OK We felt that the two male lead singers didn't have strong enough voices, and on the whole the cast wasn't exactly full of "Hollywood lookers." The leading lady was very cute and had a great voice. The costumes were rather lack-luster. It was entertaining, but not great. The second show that they did had costumes done by Bob Mackie. Much better! Lots of glamour and glitz. We were much happier with that show. Joe and Cathy went and saw a magician and a comedian one night and enjoyed that show. Joe liked the magician so much, he went and saw him again the next morning in the Queen's Lounge in a more "up-close and personal" setting. They also saw a singer from Canada one night and enjoyed his show as well. The photo department was a little out of the way. I always enjoy looking at all the photos. Keep in mind that if there's one you want to buy, do it when you first see it. At the end of the cruise there are too many photos for them to display all at once, so if you don't pick it up right away, you may end up sifting through many stacks of photos to find yours. And there are lots of people doing just that on the last night. The atrium was nothing to write home about. It's not a bustling hot bed of excitement. There's a Waterford crystal seahorse hanging from the ceiling, and as much as I love crystal, it just wasn't too impressive. There were no grand lights or impressive stair cases. The on-board shops were very nice. Everything you could need or want. There was a nice selection of beautiful jewelry (real and fake), crystal, t-shirts, fancy clothes, the usual touristy stuff, booze, cigarettes, and sundries. It was nice that they were open till 10:30 p.m., but even nicer that on the final night they were open till 11:00, at which time they wouldn't accept cash, only a room charge. (No cash??? What's this world coming to?) Dan noticed that cigs were only $18 a carton, half the price of here at home. We heard that the limit you could take home was 5 cartons per person, but when Dan went to purchase them the next day, he was told that you could take home five cartons only from St. Thomas, not Tortola! I don't understand all the duty-free/immigration rules, but if you want to buy booze or smokes, make sure you get the facts before you start cruising. The ship passed out declaration forms before the end of the cruise that needed to be filled out by everyone (or one per family), and they were collected by INS upon your departure from the port building after you found your luggage. On the form you declare what you bought and how much money you spent. When the agent saw that we each had a carton of cigs listed, he asked us if we had any cigars. I said no and he let us pass. I had heard that Cuban cigars are legal, but I thought they were illegal - maybe they're just legal on the ship or in a different country, i.e. the Bahamas or British Virgin Islands? Obviously, I don't know the details. What if INS didn't believe you or wanted to check your luggage? Or if you had five cartons, how do they know where you purchased them? I guess they would have pulled you over right there and checked your luggage? Carrying home heavy bottles of booze seemed rather inconvenient, so we never inquired about it. I think that the limit you could spend was $1,800 without having to pay a duty for your purchases. Cathy had spent a little over that amount on jewelry, etc., and declared it all, but didn't have one of her receipts. The agent begrudgingly told her he'd give her the benefit of the doubt and let her go through. Speaking of immigration and different countries, one day when we got back to our room, there was a form to fill out and a notice that ALL passengers had to be ready for an INS inspection at 6:45 the next morning! Every person had to have their passport or i.d. ready to show an INS agent in the Queen's Lounge. If you didn't show up, you would be fined. I have no idea if that's a common practice on cruise ships since I've never left the country on a ship before, but I didn't enjoy having to wake up at the crack of dawn on a day off of work. I guess you gotta do what you gotta do. The drinking age on the ship was 18 since it was on international waters - a topic hotly debated for a while on the AOL cruise boards. During your shore excursions it's a very good idea to carry lots of $1's and $5's for cab fares and tips. The drivers will often tell you that they don't have any change. And everybody from the taxi drivers to tour guides to waiters to bathroom attendants, etc., remind you that it's nice to tip - they're not shy about it! So make sure you have the right change to tip if you feel it's warranted. The Weather -- The weather during our cruise was very warm (too hot for Cathy and me!) and very humid. We're not used to all the humidity, so it was a real drag. I can't imagine being there in the summer! Just opening the veranda door (most of the time) was like walking into a very windy steam room. On the last day, at Nassau, it was beautiful. A little cooler and less humid, but the wind was so intense that the ship cancelled all snorkeling and helicopter rides. It was very windy (we saw Auntie Em fly by), but very nice otherwise. Shore Excursions Half Moon Cay -- Our first stop was at Holland America's private island, Half Moon Cay (pronounced key). Dan had signed up to go deep-sea fishing ($120). They took him out on a small boat for two hours, and not one bite! He was hoping for a big one. When he got back, we all took at tender (a small boat) to the island for a glass-bottom boat tour ($29 per person). There isn't a dock, so the ship has to anchor out in the ocean, hence the tender to get you to shore. It was so hot that day. Sitting in the enclosed tender waiting for it to take off was killer. If you don't do well in the heat, you might want to carry a little battery-operated fan with you. Wish I had. The scenery was beautiful. The island was small with a pretty beach and turquoise water. When we got to the island, there was a small "shopping" area with an outdoor bar and some small outdoor shopping stands. There was one building with a post office and an indoor shop, but it was not air-conditioned. They serve lunch on the island till 2:00, but our tour was getting back at 2:00. If they have tours that run till 2:00, I think they should serve some kind of food later. The "village" area was very cute, with brightly painted buildings, a bar, and a nice bathroom. Just beyond the buildings was the beach. We could see some parasailing going on in the sky. Very pretty but we didn't have time to enjoy it. Our Eco Lagoon Tour started at 12:30. It was great. The boat was covered on the top and open on the sides, with a glass bottom, and of course there was a nice breeze once we got going. The lagoon was very shallow and we saw lots of different coral and fish. The two tour guides were very friendly and knowledgeable. One of them would jump out and pick up different animals (a star fish and a sea urchin) to show them to you up close. We all enjoyed the tour. We stopped at St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands on Tuesday. We docked this time, parallel parked. We took a tour called Island Tour and Mountain Top ($24 each). The "bus" was a pick-up truck that had the bed converted with bench seats, a top, and open sides. The end seat would be best for taking photos, but it also left you in the sun. Again, it was hot. As we drove out of the pier area the roads got worse and steep. We were a little nervous. The tour guide was nice and friendly, and he took us to some higher spots on the island to see the beautiful vistas. Again, there were outdoor swap-meet-like shopping areas selling lots polyester "Caribbean" clothes. I don't know how people could survive the humidity in polyester clothes! Then we drove up to the highest point of the island and over-looked Megan's Bay. It was absolutely gorgeous. But I'm not sure if anyone actually gets to go there or not. We just saw it from afar. Made for some spectacular photos! There was a nice air-conditioned indoor shopping/snacking area there and we were stopped for about a ½ hour. It was nice to cool off. On the way back down the hill we saw a 5' iguana just moseying along. He was quite cool. Apparently there are quite a few of them. That's about the only wildlife we saw on land, except for some pelicans at the beach. The tour bus took us back down to the downtown area and dropped us off if we wanted to shop, or would take us back to the ship. We wanted to shop. The streets were very narrow and congested. Lots of carbon monoxide! And lots of horns honking. Every two minutes someone was asking you if you needed a taxi. Every store I went into was hard sell. These islands have one industry - tourism. And they need to make their money for the year during the tourist season. Even though the main street was run down, most of the shops were very nice on the interiors. There were many fancy jewelry stores, plus a lot of stores you'd find in Beverly Hills, i.e., Lalique, Swarovski, Coach, Ralph Lauren, etc. After shopping for a couple of hours, we found a hamburger place to eat. No great shakes. There didn't seem to be too many restaurants. A few of the locals told us to go up this one street and over a block off the main drag, but we didn't really trust them. They looked rather seedy. So we kept looking on our own. We walked out onto the street and took up one of the taxi drivers and went back to the ship to drop off our purchases. Then Cathy and I went back out to the Havensight Mall (right next to the ship). We spent another three hours shopping there. Cathy found a jewelry store that had too much good stuff. And I finally found some nice T-shirts in XXL for Dan. (Larger sizes are not easy to find!) We also enjoyed the air-conditioned stores and the fact that they were only a five-minute walk back to the ship. Tortola, British Virgin Islands -- On Wednesday we stopped at Tortola, British Virgin Islands. Again, we docked at a ship parking lot, with another ship right next to us. We headed off the ship on our own, determined to find a beach to hang out on for the day. At the end of the pier was a man asking where you wanted to go and directing people to the appropriate taxis. We got on a taxi that was 98% full of people, but the taxis don't leave till they are completely full, with four people to a seat (can you say "cramped?") The people who were already there had been waiting twenty minutes cramped together in the heat and were getting very antsy. They started telling the cab driver to get going, but he didn't care. Not too friendly, to say the least. There was a big sign in the front of the back section that was rather rude about not putting your feet on the window, that's what the floor is for. And informing us all that tipping is not illegal. After another ten minutes he finally got another couple to ride up front with him and we were off. As he started driving on the nightmare roads, all of us passengers started looking at each other in disbelief, hoping we'd make it to our destination, which turned out to be Cane Garden Bay Beach. It's a very poor island and you see lots of trash in yards, roosters, and goats wandering on the roads, and hurricane-ravaged houses. The roads were full of potholes, were very narrow and steep, with no guardrails along some of the cliffs. Pretty scary, folks. When we arrived at the beach, we all got out of the cab and had to pay our $6 each. The first person handed the driver a $20 bill, and was told by the driver rather indignantly that he didn't have any change. We gave him the required $12 and left. No tip for that bozo. When we walked out to the beach it was very pretty. Chaise lounges lined up everywhere. We picked a chair, sat down, and were immediately approached by a local telling us that a chair would cost us $5 each. OK There were palm trees and lots of greenery along the back side of the beach. The water was very blue, with puffy clouds in the sky, and a few sail boats in the bay. Very picturesque. We had a great time watching the pelicans dive-bombing for fish. We sat for a while enjoying the breeze and slight overcast. From out of nowhere, Joe (my brother-in-law) walked up. What were the odds of that happening? Cathy slept in and he got off the ship and took a long island tour. (Not to be confused with a tour of Long Island). He agreed that the roads were rather treacherous, and said that he had been to the highest point on the mountain, and had seen some incredibly gorgeous mansions. A little different from what we saw. After he left with his tour bus, we ventured into the water. It was a little too cold for us. Yes, warmer than Malibu, but still too cold. We decided to stroll along the beach instead. There were many outdoor vendors with clothes hanging for sale. We were quite thirsty, so we continued to the end of the bay where we saw an "outdoor" cafe. Along the way, Dan spotted something we had never seen before. Topless sunbathers! Made his day! I guess it's the norm in a lot of places, but not to us. After we quit staring, pointing, and taking pictures for the scrap book (just kidding!), we managed to make our way to the cafe. There was a stairway, or what used to be a stairway. The wooden steps had been ravaged. Where there used to be a railing, now was only a rope. I wasn't too crazy about it. Dan went first and assured me I'd make it without incident. I did. Whew. The place was pretty thrashed. We waited at the bar for several minutes before anyone showed up to help us. We bought a couple of cans of Coke and sat for a while. The more I looked around, the more I realized that the Los Angeles County Department of Health would have a field day with this place! Yuck. And yuck. I didn't see any way that the patio area could be closed up at night or during inclement weather. There was an area in the center that had apparently been a little garden at one time, but was now only growing rusty debris. I took a few photos of the pelicans from the edge of the balcony, and we left and made our way back to our $5 chair. On the way, we saw a man on the beach pushing a dirty old wheelbarrow containing coconuts, a hammer, and an open bottle of rum. Things are a little different there. To our surprise, we actually saw people drinking out of the coconuts. Wonder what they cost. I didn't care enough to find out. A couple that we had met on the ship saw us and came over to chat. They asked us how we liked the ride over there. Oh yeah. We picked up our towels and went to find a bathroom. Something told me that once I found one, I wasn't going to want to use it. But to my surprise, the main bathroom in the middle of the beach was actually quite decent. What a relief. A taxi pulled up and dropped off some passengers. We asked him if he could take us back to the ship. He looked at us, and very non-enthusiastically said, "I suppose. But you'll have to wait for more people or it will cost you an arm and a leg." Great. At least he was honest - I guess. So we sat down and waited. Dan had a smoke, then another, then another. Seemed nobody was in a hurry to leave - not even the cab driver. He was just sitting on a lounge chair a little ways over from us, basking in the sunshine. Hey - did he pay the required five bucks? After what seemed an eternity, another driver walked up to us and asked if we wanted a ride right then. He said that it would cost us $18 to go by ourselves, but he'd take us if we wanted. We jumped on it. His van had no shocks, no seatbelts, and I honestly didn't think it was going the make it up to the tops of the steep hills, and was praying it would have brakes on the way back down. It was exciting if nothing else. As we got back over the mountain I asked if there was a downtown shopping area. He said there was only a flea-market type place. He dropped us off there; just a 10-minute walk from the ship. There were ten or twelve small, brightly painted separate shops surrounding a pretty, well-kept, little courtyard. Now this was cute and I was happy. Finally - some nice local atmosphere to enjoy. Each building we went into had someone working in it that was less friendly or responsive than the last. Well, at least they weren't the hard-sell bunch like St. Thomas! From one extreme to the other. We purchased nothing and walked back to the ship. We saw a building under construction, and noticed that there was very little mortar between the cinder blocks, and very sparse re-bar throughout. I guess they have very loose building codes, if any? We walked back to the ship, enjoyed the heck out of our fabulous dinner, and sorry folks, but we decided that we could do without Tortola again in our lifetimes. That night the seas were a little rough, but none of us got sick. It was kind of interesting trying to sleep on your side when you keep getting flopped back and forth. What excitement! On our last cruise day, we stopped at Nassau, The Bahamas. Again, we pulled into a large parking lot, five ships parked in a row. We pulled in first, and the view was spectacular before the other ships arrived! Now this is what we were expecting! In the distance we could see a very grand hotel, the Atlantis. It put anything in Las Vegas to shame. Right off the ship, we could see a huge, pretty yellow building. There were palm trees planted on the dock. The air was much cooler (yeah!), but it was extremely windy. We were fortunate to not have scheduled any of the shore excursions that were cancelled due to high winds. We got off the ship and were approached by a nicely-dressed Bahamian cab driver. It seemed that they were all well-dressed. He was very friendly. Charlie. He asked us what we wanted to do, and offered to take us on a tour of the island and to the main downtown shopping area for about an hour and a half, for $30 per person. He would "treat us like royalty." We agreed. He led us through some buildings and down a street to get to his cab. Several times along the way he put up his arms and announced in a booming voice, "Clear the way! Royalty coming through!" Every one would look and laugh. Rather embarrassing, but lots of fun. Luckily he had a nice Mercedes van with air-conditioning and seat belts. He did his darnedest to entertain us. Kept calling us all "your Highness." He was a lot of fun. The streets were very narrow and FILLED with cars. Everyone drives very aggressively and everyone uses their horn at least five times per each block driven. What a mad house. He took us through the poor area of town, where they don't even have running water. There is a community spigot where they load up their pails, and they have holes in their yards for waste. Makes me realize how fortunate I am. Then in complete contrast, he took us over to Paradise Island and the Atlantis Hotel. Money dripping. There's a suite that spans the two main towers. Charlie told us that it goes for $25,000 per night, with a ten night minimum. Puh-lease! He said that Michael Jackson stays there a lot, and of course, a ration of jokes ensued. He dropped us off in front of the hotel to take pictures in front of the beautiful fountain while he parked. Then he took us for a tour through the hotel and casino. Again, it was rather embarrassing when he announced that royalty was coming through. It wasn't too far-fetched that royalty does go through there! It was gorgeous. Very grandiose. We put $20 in a slot machine and all took turns losing it as fast as we could. It never paid; not even once. There is a HUGE aquarium that you can walk through with incredible tropical fish, lobsters, sharks, manta rays, you name it. The grounds outside were spectacular. Charlie said that an average room runs about $500 a night. After the tour of the hotel, he asked us what we wanted to do. We asked where there was a nice place to have lunch on the beach, and he suggested the Sheraton right next door to the Atlantis. We parted ways with Charlie and headed for the beach and food. It was great sitting back off the beach on a patio and eating. Dan and Joe were brave and tried the Conch (as in those big Conch shells that you see) burgers. (Bahamians do everything possible with the meat of the conch.) It was fried and looked and tasted very similar to a Filet-of-Fish sandwich from Mickey-D's. We walked around a bit on the beach and took in the scenery. It was beautiful. We walked back out to the main drag and caught a taxi back to town. Another very nice driver in a nice van. He stopped and picked up another couple along the way. He dropped us off downtown, close to the ship. We shopped for a while. Everyone was very kind and helpful. The town was quaint. I'd go back there again anytime. Too bad the ship is only there from 12:00 noon till 7:00 p.m. We started back to the ship just as it started raining. Good timing. Our waiter that night said that it always rains when they stop there. We were fortunate to have had such a nice day. Now we had to pack our bags. No more spoiling. Boo hoo. The Everglades -- Our flight to head back to Los Angeles didn't leave Fort Lauderdale till 6:45 that evening, so we signed up for a land excursion tour to the Everglades to ride an airboat and see alligators up close and personal. We disembarked the ship, which went very smoothly, and got ourselves and our luggage on a HAL bus to head for the Everglades. Luckily, we remembered that the airport was freezing, so we packed our jackets right on top of our luggage so we wouldn't get frost-bitten while waiting a few hours for our flight. When we claimed our luggage at the port, we realized that it was a little chilly outside, so we pulled out our jackets right then before leaving the port. Good thing! When we got to the Everglades it was overcast, windy, and pretty close to bone-chilling compared to the weather we just left behind. I always pictured the Everglades in swamp land with trees and vines in the middle of nowhere. It's right off the highway! And it's just a flat watery/grassy area. We were all freezing cold. We got onto the air boat and met our tour guide for the ride. A nice guy in shorts and a T-shirt. And we thought we were cold! The ride was a bust because the alligators won't come out of the water when it's cold. We didn't get to see one dang alligator in the Everglades! And the guide didn't want to go too fast for fear that our appendages would turn blue, fall off, and become alligator bait. They passed out ear plugs to everyone when we boarded the boat. It was very loud! The wind actually blew my clip-on sunglasses off of my glasses. (Luckily they landed on the floor behind me and I was able to retrieve them.) When we got back to the dock, they took us on a tour of their little wildlife sanctuary, where we were able to see a couple of large alligators, and even hold a 20-month old one. He was about 3 or 4 feet long, and they taped his jaw shut. I was surprised when I felt his soft skin. It was a highlight of my trip! How many people get to hold an alligator? How many people want to? I do! OK If you haven't figured it out by now, I'm weird! Then we moved on to the Florida panther exhibit. He was in a large caged area, with a woman sitting in there with him. At first he was lying in the corner, but then he got up and walked over to her and jumped up to where she was sitting on a bench. He snuggled up to her and went right for her thumb. He loves to suck her thumb. What a majestic animal, and so adorable! Then the lady said that for $10 anyone could go in and pet him. There were no takers. He was just a little too big for comfort, thank you! I never thought I'd choose to hold an alligator over a panther! We left the animals and went through the gift shop and bathrooms. Boarded our bus and headed for the airport. Just a word of warning: My suitcase was overweight. The airlines allow for 50 lbs., and mine weighed 68! Oops. The lady was very nice and reported that it only weighed 62 lbs., so the charge was $20. She said that if she had reported that it weighed 68 lbs, the charge would have been $80! Next time I'll take two bags instead of one heavy one. At least they let us check in our luggage four hours early so we didn't have to lug it around the airport. We had a nice flight home and paid the $5 for pillows. We were beat! Our trip was wonderful. We loved the contemporary and colorful interiors of the Zuiderdam, the service, the relaxation, and the beautiful turquoise waters of the Eastern Caribbean. We're looking forward to many more cruises in our future! Read Less
Sail Date: November 2003
First let me say that this was my first HAL cruise, but I have been on many different lines and 36 cruises since first cruising in 1987. I was very apprehensive because in the past I have seen in various ports the HAL passengers and in a ... Read More
First let me say that this was my first HAL cruise, but I have been on many different lines and 36 cruises since first cruising in 1987. I was very apprehensive because in the past I have seen in various ports the HAL passengers and in a few occasions not only did they seem to be just about one foot in the grave but also many seemed to be in very foul moods. I was very pleasantly surprised! Right from the beginning the service was efficient and in most cases excellent. Check in was very smooth and fast. No long lines whatsoever. We boarded about 1245pm and were directed to the Lido Restaurant as the cabins would not be open to passengers until 130pm, and that seemed unusual but I figured whatever. This would be the only time I knew how crowded the ship actually was. There were absolutely NO seats in the the restaurant or by the pool and that was pretty frustrating but when the cabins opened up the mass exodus began and we relaxed for the cruise. The ship is very nice and I think very nicely decorated. The atrium is very small and is NOT the focal point as it is on many other ships, in fact I rarely did anything in the atrium area. HAL has started a new 4 tier dinner seating and this was confusing to us, this is something that HAL needs to explain better so others don't miss their meals. The first seating are at 530p for the upper dining area and 600p for the lower are follows by 800p and 830p for second seating. The service in the dining room was very efficient and professional but with the Indonesian staff there was less getting to know our wait staff vs the International staff on other lines. We did try the Odyssey Restaurant and it was worth every penny of the $20 we paid the service was excellent and the food delicious, everyone should try it once you won't be disappointed! The food at the Lido was very good and the variety was excellent. I was impressed with the fresh squeezed orange juice and made to order eggs (any style, both are uncommon on many lines I have sailed on). The port were ok, I have been to St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Nassau many times. If you are into aviation then don't miss Maho Beach in St. Maarten for a great beach and airplanes really close up! It was my first visit to Half Moon Cay and that was a nice out island, second in my opinion only to Disney's Castaway Cay. The sand was the finest grain sand I have ever walked on! The stage shows were surprisingly good (I have seen so many review shows on board I was skeptical, but they really were pretty good). The staff on all levels was excellent, always helpful and friendly. A standout was Eugene a bar waiter in the Crow's Nest Lounge, he asked our name in the hours before sailing and then always greeted us everytime we went there for the rest of the cruise. Some negatives were the lack of choices on the in cabin TV and the vibration in the dining room, it was pretty loud making everyone talk louder than they should and making the overall volume in the room high. Our inside cabin was large and they under bed drawers are a great idea, making a great place for dirty clothes. IN conclusion this was an excellent cruise and we are already looking at the Zuiderdam or one of her Vista sisters for our annual November cruise in 2004. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2003
MS Zuiderdam Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean Sail Date: 10/11/03 This was our 17th cruise, fourth on a Holland America ship and our first on the Zuiderdam. The cruise was an anniversary celebration and we had purchased the anniversary ... Read More
MS Zuiderdam Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean Sail Date: 10/11/03 This was our 17th cruise, fourth on a Holland America ship and our first on the Zuiderdam. The cruise was an anniversary celebration and we had purchased the anniversary celebration package, which was well worth the small cost. It was very nice to receive the special attention that this package brings. The eastern Caribbean itinerary that we sailed, Half Moon Cay, Saint Martin, St, Thomas and Nassau is one that we have done often and all of the ports we visited have become old friends. What follows are some thoughts, discoveries and insights into our cruise and the ship. The Zuiderdam is the first of a series of ships that HAL calls the Vista Class. Others in the series include the Oosterdam launched in 2003 and soon to arrive, in 2004, Westerdam. I was told by the Ship's hotel manager that the follow on ship to the Westerdam will be called the Nieuw Amsterdam, continuing the HAL tradition of reusing names from the lines history. The Zuiderdam is the second ship to be so named. The ship utilizes the same basic design as the Spirit Class of Carnival and the Atlantica Class of Costa. Of course each line has decorated and outfitted their ships to reflect their respective design philosophies and cruise market. The interior designer of the Zuiderdam is the same person/company who did previous HAL interiors, which is actually hard to believe. Somewhere along the line he was told, or so it is said, to "Jazz things up!" And boy did he ever! I guess he wanted to prove that Joe Farcus, the interior designer for Carnival, had nothing on him. The colors in most areas are not subtle ranging from ultra bright red suede leather in some elevators to bright yellows, blues and purples. Throughout much of the ship the carpeting is a multi-hue design in shades of blue. Designs include some very modern finishes, there are art deco touches, chairs and couches in red and gold brocades, tan leathers, white chairs and colored fabrics galore. In direct contrast with the wide range and variety of materials the interior corridors on passenger decks are a very bland, gray colored, man-made simulated wood material. Maybe to try and "Jazz" things up the wood pattern runs horizontally but I don't think that it works very well as it looks oh so fake. This patterned finish also shows up is some public areas in different hues of course. Fortunately for HAL regulars there are some areas that were left alone, including the Explorers Lounge, which is done in a tone very familiar to that on other HAL ships, the full promenade lined with teak deck chairs and the spacious, nicely decorated cabins. The swimming pools are fresh water and can be heated if necessary. The many reviews of this ship have thoroughly covered the layout so I will skip this. Instead here is what I think works and what I think doesn't. The sliding dome over the Lido: I have been a big advocate of domes over lido pools but now I have come to see that they are a mixed bag. Having a dome provides a protected pool and sunbathing area and allows use of this area in all types of weather. This is especially nice when cruising in cold weather areas and of course when it rains. The downside to having the dome is that it cuts the Observation Deck off from the Lido Deck below rendering most of the midsection area of the Observation Deck unusable for sunbathing and/or listening to the music from the Lido deck below. The Lido Restaurant The Lido Restaurant is different in that he food is served from different serving stations. There are six major food serving area with two main lines, two deli stations, an Asian food station, an Italian station serving pasta and pizza plus two desert stations and a salad line. The food served here is excellent, amongst the best we have ever had at a Lido. HAL really does excel in Lido dining. While the food is really good the problem is finding a table to sit at to eat it. The number of tables is wholly inadequate for the number of people being served and at peak times during morning and lunch nary a table or empty seat can be found. Large dividers used to break the room up into smaller spaces are a main cause of the problem by eating up valuable floor space. Plans are already being made to redesign the area by removing these dividers to increase the seating capacity of which will be a good thing. The Atrium You call this an atrium? If so you only need to look at Royal Caribbean designs to see how it can and should be done. The atrium here is small, narrow and only three decks high. Also the ceilings in the area around the atrium seem very low eliminating the feeling of openness one should get from an atrium space. Consider this a space for connecting between decks and not a place one wants to linger at. The decoration is interesting with the central focus being a revolving Seahorse suspended from the ceiling. Each deck is done differently making for some really odd juxtapositions of color and design depending on which way you look. A small bar rests on the lowest level of the atrium but surprisingly there are no waiters or waitresses here to serve you. It is strictly get your own from the bar. Music from the Ocean Bar two decks above provides the only entertainment. The Odyssey Restaurant We ate here twice and both times were amply rewarded with the best meals we have had at sea. The menu concentrates on beef but alternatives are also offered. The porterhouse steak I had was yummy and the filet mignon was simply superb. The Crab soup and crab cakes offered as appetizers are fantastic. The restaurant is done up in white upholstered heavy metal frame chairs and matching tables. The ceilings are decorated with what appear to oversize replicas of sand dollars. Fiber optic lighting simulates rays of light flowing out from the center along the spines. To add some color large backlit pictures of vegetables and wines are used as wall decoration. The tables are elegantly set in a very formal presentation. All in all it is simply a superb place to enjoy a meal. There is a $20 per person cover charge to eat here and it is worth every penny spent. The charge is added to your on board account. Incidentally the cover charge does not include a tip so be sure to bring some cash to tip the waiter and his assistant. One very nice touch is that the chef comes out and chats with you at the end of the meal talking about the food it's presentation and just about anything else. While we never saw the Odyssey totally full I highly recommend making your reservations for early in the week. This way if you want to come back for a second visit you have first dibs simply by telling your waiter. The Ocean Bar The Ocean Bar has always been a special place for us to have a pre-dinner or post dinner drink, enjoy hot appetizers before dinner and listen to good music. On all other HAL ships the Ocean Bar is a totally separate, self-contained area, elegantly decorated with a special ambiance. On the Zuiderdam the Ocean Bar now surrounds the upper deck of the atrium and is totally open to it except for the area with the bar. The bar area is divided off and reserved for smokers but it is now separated from the music which is on the other side of the Atrium! Traffic flows through the entire area and that special Ambiance has been lost. And it seems even the servers have a hard time providing the level of prompt and courteous service that is so typical of HAL. For me the Ocean bar is a complete miss and regretfully there seems to be little that can be done to improve it. The Vista Dining Room The Vista Dining room is a two-deck affair with a single circular staircase and small atrium connecting the two levels. In designing the restaurant the designers were forced to make a decision that I think they now regret. The choice was this: either have was two dining rooms separated by a galley in two fire divisions or confine the dining area and galley to one fire division. Unfortunately the decision was the latter and the compromises this choice forced on the design are not good ones. First of all the dining room is too small for the number of tables and seats required. This has forced the spacing between tables to be very tight and has also forced the use of numerous rectangular tables seating ten. The tight spacing means that the waiters often have a tough time getting to the people at the far end of the table without making someone else move their chair or "pull in" a bit. The lack of space also forced the atrium to be far less grand and with only one staircase. Visibility of the staircase is so restricted that anyone wanting to make a "Grand Descent" at dinner is simply wasting their time, as nobody can see them. And the vibrations reported by others are real. The ship now slows down during dinner hours to lesson the vibrations and at least where we sat at the stern on the upper level it was tolerable. The vibration is caused by a design flaw resulting from air bubbles generated by propeller cavitations hitting the bottom of the hull. A fix has been developed and this fix has been incorporated in the Oosterdam. The fix will be retrofitted into the Zuiderdam and that should eliminate the problem. The Vista Dining Experience The quality of the food served in the main dining room has certainly improved over that we have had on other earlier HAL cruises. The presentation was excellent; the food arrived hot and cooked as desired and well seasoned. The appetizers were varied and tasty and the soups were wonderful, but the salads were a bit bland. The entrees seemed to be wholly enjoyed by all at our table. Noticeably absent from the menu were any veal dishes (a favorite of mine). Flowers and Art Work This ship continues the HAL tradition of placing artwork, antiques and antique reproductions throughout the ship. Fine paintings of prior HAL ships and large pieces of art are found in the stairwells. Everything is labeled and one could spend quite a bit of time just studying the art onboard. Fresh flower arrangements are also spread throughout the public areas of the ship. Since the ship is so much larger than other HAL ships the arrangements just don't seem as numerous. The Crows Nest The Crows Nest lounge is now a truly a nice evening venue for live music as this ship has a separate disco. On other HAL ships the Crows Nest is a dual-purpose room becoming a disco late in the evening. The Zuiderdam arrangement is far superior. The Crow's Nest surrounds the forward part of deck 10 providing tremendous views during the day. Unfortunately reclining leather-covered lounge chairs that line the forward glass wall of the lounge were broken. I would think that the chairs would have to be replaced with sturdier chairs. The sides of the crows nest are decorated differently from the main area giving them a different feel from t he main lounge. These areas feature ceilings with Murano glass tiles. The Vista Lounge The Vista lounge design is much better than that of the other HAL ships. The lower level is steeply inclined to provide stadium like seating that provides excellent views for everyone except those unlucky enough to be sitting behind one the support columns of which there are more than a few. The upper level also provides pretty good sightlines. The dEcor is bold being all red and there is a fabric covered ceiling decoration that looks like a huge parachute. The stage, lighting, sound and special effects are state of the art. Unfortunately so is the music, which is all prerecorded eliminating that special feel that a live orchestra provides. The shows are good, standard production fare, a magician, a male singer and a comedian rounded out the entertainment and all were fine. Public Restrooms There seems to be a dearth of public rest rooms or perhaps there are enough but they are placed in strange locations. Many times it was simply easier to go back to the room rather than search around looking for one, which is not very convenient. What bathrooms there are were nicely decorated and provided with clean hand towels to dry your hands and even the men's rooms have small vases of flowers in them. The Queens Lounge The Queens Lounge serves as a dual-purpose room being both a lounge and movie theater. While practical it lacks the feel of a true movie theater, the seating is of the lounge type and site lines are poor from the sides as the movie screen is set too far back on the stage to be seen. However, freshly popped popcorn is still served when movies are shown and the sound system is very good. The Northern Lights Disco For those who enjoy disco the much talked about Northern Lights Disco certainly has a unique and somewhat bizarre color scheme that looks like a giant commercial for Gateway computers as all the seating and some walls have a what looks like a faux cowhide finish in black and white. But it is a real disco and was well used on our sailing. The Sports Bar A first for HAL this bar is located adjacent to the casino and since we were cruising during the playoffs it became a popular spot at night. Some complaints were made that college football games were not being shown. Instead international sports such as soccer were on the numerous boob tubes. The Elevators Unlike previous HAL ships the elevators lack fold down seats in them. I never used the seats so I don't know if this is a good or bad thing. The elevator interiors are very bold in color, which wakes you up in the morning! The glass enclosed elevators that face outward and provide ocean views are delightful and a real plus. Miscellaneous We never visited the Piano Bar but it seemed a nicely decorated room. Being nonsmokers we never visited the Oak Room, which is the cigar smokers lounge. Unlike other HAL ships there is no self-service laundry. If need be you can fill a laundry bag with dirty clothes and have them all cleaned for a flat $12 charge. Room service was excellent providing a good selection of items and was always on time. Be sure to tip the steward a dollar or two. The Service Traditional HAL service was somewhat hard to come by on this ship. The crew seemed a bit tired as they have been onboard since the beginning and seem to be getting worn down a bit. The warm and gracious service that we have found on other HAL ships was noticeably absent in most areas of Zuiderdam. However there were still some bright spots to be found, some service people that greeted you warmly, remembered your name and even from where you came from. Hopefully this will improve as fresh crew is brought aboard and the existing crew is recycled for some well earned rest. First impressions can be both misleading and/or correct. In the case of the Zuiderdam they turned out to be both, especially for those who have sailed on Holland America's other ships. Upon first entering the ship and having a quick look around one starts to wonder, "Where is the Holland America interior that I have grown to love? The colors are so much bolder and bright that you almost think that you are surely on a Carnival ship. After awhile though you begin to notice the decorator touches and finishes that make HAL what it is. The flowers are still there, the Murano glass is still there, as are the artwork, and antiques and high value finishes such as leather and suede. It's just that it takes some time to notice some of them. My fellow passengers confirmed these impressions. First time HAL cruisers loved the interior designs and those who have sailed on other HAL ships did not find some of them quite as appealing. For me the emotions and feelings about this ship are quite mixed. It has some truly great pluses and some truly great misses from a design standpoint. The plusses are the Odyssey Restaurant, a truly magnificent alternative dining venue, A Lido buffet area that does a terrific job at keeping lines small by splitting food service into six different major food stations plus two desert bars. The minuses are just as significant. The Vista Dining Room is too small and seating is very tight. Seating in the Lido is inadequate to handle the number of passengers dining there for breakfast or lunch, although this should soon be rectified. The Ocean Bar is a total flop losing all of the charm and ambiance that make the Ocean bars on other HAL ships so special. Finally the atrium is actually so small as I hesitate to call it an atrium. It seems even smaller than those on the smaller HAL fleets and should only be considered as passage between decks. Finally, did I enjoy this cruise and ship. The answer is absolutely and positively yes! While many of the comments I have made may seem negative understand that the dislikes we are a talking are a matter of degree from a very high opening standard and expectation. They should be not be misconstrued as being a total dislike or condemnation for the ship or the cruise. It is just a fact that the Zuiderdam is so different from previous HAL offerings that one cannot help but to make comparisons. Apparently even HAL has done some rethinking and the evidence can be seen in the follow-on Oosterdam and Westerdam as they have reportedly returned to a more traditional HAL interior dEcor. For the most part our cruise was delightful and we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. I would recommend this ship to my friends. For all cruise lines and cruise ships the bottom line is "Would I sail on this ship again?" For us the answer is yes. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2003
MS Zuiderdam Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean Sail Date: 10/11/03 This was our 17th cruise, fourth on a Holland America ship and our first on the Zuiderdam. The cruise was an anniversary celebration and we had purchased the anniversary ... Read More
MS Zuiderdam Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean Sail Date: 10/11/03 This was our 17th cruise, fourth on a Holland America ship and our first on the Zuiderdam. The cruise was an anniversary celebration and we had purchased the anniversary celebration package, which was well worth the small cost. It was very nice to receive the special attention that this package brings. The eastern Caribbean itinerary that we sailed, Half Moon Cay, Saint Martin, St, Thomas and Nassau is one that we have done often and all of the ports we visited have become old friends. What follows are some thoughts, discoveries and insights into our cruise and the ship. The Zuiderdam is the first of a series of ships that HAL calls the Vista Class. Others in the series include the Oosterdam launched in 2003 and soon to arrive, in 2004, Westerdam. I was told by the Ship's hotel manager that the follow on ship to the Westerdam will be called the Nieuw Amsterdam, continuing the HAL tradition of reusing names from the line's history. The Zuiderdam is the second ship to be so named. The ship utilizes the same basic design as the Spirit Class of Carnival and the Atlantica Class of Costa. Of course each line has decorated and outfitted their ships to reflect their respective design philosophies and cruise market. The interior designer of the Zuiderdam is the same person/company who did previous HAL interiors, which is actually hard to believe. Somewhere along the line he was told, or so it is said, to "Jazz things up!" And boy did he ever! I guess he wanted to prove that Joe Farcus, the interior designer for Carnival, had nothing on him. The colors in most areas are not subtle ranging from ultra bright red suede leather in some elevators to bright yellows, blues and purples. Throughout much of the ship the carpeting is a multi-hue design in shades of blue. Designs include some very modern finishes, there are art deco touches, chairs and couches in red and gold brocades, tan leathers, white chairs and colored fabrics galore. In direct contrast with the wide range and variety of materials the interior corridors on passenger decks are a very bland, gray colored, man-made simulated wood material. Maybe to try and "Jazz" things up the wood pattern runs horizontally but I don't think that it works very well as it looks oh so fake. This patterned finish also shows up is some public areas in different hues of course. Fortunately for HAL regulars there are some areas that were left alone, including the Explorers Lounge, which is done in a tone very familiar to that on other HAL ships, the full promenade lined with teak deck chairs and the spacious, nicely decorated cabins. The swimming pools are fresh water and can be heated if necessary. The many reviews of this ship have thoroughly covered the layout so I will skip this. Instead here is what I think works and what I think doesn't. The sliding dome over the Lido: I have been a big advocate of domes over lido pools but now I have come to see that they are a mixed bag. Having a dome provides a protected pool and sunbathing area and allows use of this area in all types of weather. This is especially nice when cruising in cold weather areas and of course when it rains. The downside to having the dome is that it cuts the Observation Deck off from the Lido Deck below rendering most of the midsection area of the Observation Deck unusable for sunbathing and/or listening to the music from the Lido deck below. The Lido Restaurant: The Lido Restaurant is different in that he food is served from different serving stations. There are six major food serving area with two main lines, two deli stations, an Asian food station, an Italian station serving pasta and pizza plus two dessert stations and a salad line. The food served here is excellent, amongst the best we have ever had at a Lido. HAL really does excel in Lido dining. While the food is really good the problem is finding a table to sit at to eat it. The number of tables is wholly inadequate for the number of people being served and at peak times during morning and lunch nary a table or empty seat can be found. Large dividers used to break the room up into smaller spaces are a main cause of the problem by eating up valuable floor space. Plans are already being made to redesign the area by removing these dividers to increase the seating capacity of which will be a good thing. The Atrium: You call this an atrium? If so you only need to look at Royal Caribbean designs to see how it can and should be done. The atrium here is small, narrow and only three decks high. Also the ceilings in the area around the atrium seem very low eliminating the feeling of openness one should get from an atrium space. Consider this a space for connecting between decks and not a place one wants to linger at. The decoration is interesting with the central focus being a revolving Seahorse suspended from the ceiling. Each deck is done differently making for some really odd juxtaposition of color and design depending on which way you look. A small bar rests on the lowest level of the atrium but surprisingly there are no waiters or waitresses here to serve you. It is strictly get your own from the bar. Music from the Ocean Bar two decks above provides the only entertainment. The Odyssey Restaurant: We ate here twice and both times were amply rewarded with the best meals we have had at sea. The menu concentrates on beef but alternatives are also offered. The porterhouse steak I had was yummy and the filet mignon was simply superb. The Crab soup and crab cakes offered as appetizers are fantastic. The restaurant is done up in white upholstered heavy metal frame chairs and matching tables. The ceilings are decorated with what appear to be oversize replicas of sand dollars. Fiber optic lighting simulates rays of light flowing out from the center along the spines. To add some color large backlit pictures of vegetables and wines are used as wall decoration. The tables are elegantly set in a very formal presentation. All in all it is simply a superb place to enjoy a meal. There is a $20 per person cover charge to eat here and it is worth every penny spent. The charge is added to your on board account. Incidentally the cover charge does not include a tip so be sure to bring some cash to tip the waiter and his assistant. One very nice touch is that the chef comes out and chats with you at the end of the meal talking about the food, it's presentation and just about anything else. While we never saw the Odyssey totally full I highly recommend making your reservations for early in the week. This way if you want to come back for a second visit you have first dibs simply by telling your waiter. The Ocean Bar: The Ocean Bar has always been a special place for us to have a pre-dinner or post dinner dink, enjoy hot appetizers before dinner and listen to good music. On all other HAL ships the Ocean Bar is a totally separate, self-contained area, elegantly decorated with a special ambiance. On the Zuiderdam the Ocean Bar now surrounds the upper deck of the atrium and is totally open to it except for the area with the bar. The bar area is divided off and reserved for smokers but it is now separated from the music which is on the other side of the Atrium! Traffic flows through the entire area and that special Ambiance has been lost. And it seems even the servers have a hard time providing the level of prompt and courteous service that is so typical of HAL. For me the Ocean bar is a complete miss and regretfully there seems to be little that can be done to improve it. The Vista Dining Room: The Vista Dining room is a two-deck affair with a single circular staircase and small atrium connecting the two levels. In designing the restaurant the designers were forced to make a decision that I think they now regret. The choice was this: either have two dining rooms separated by a galley in two fire divisions or confine the dining area and galley to one fire division. Unfortunately the decision was the latter and the compromises this choice forced on the design are not good ones. First of all the dining room is too small for the number of tables and seats required. This has forced the spacing between tables to be very tight and has also forced the use of numerous rectangular tables seating ten. The tight spacing means that the waiters often have a tough time getting to the people at the far end of the table without making someone else move their chair or "pull in" a bit. The lack of space also forced the atrium to be far less grand and with only one staircase. Visibility of the staircase is so restricted that anyone wanting to make a "Grand Descent" at dinner is simply wasting their time, as nobody can see them. And the vibrations reported by others are real. The ship now slows down during dinner hours to lesson the vibrations and at least where we sat at the stern on the upper level it was tolerable. The vibration is caused by a design flaw resulting from air bubbles generated by propeller cavitations hitting the bottom of the hull. A fix has been developed and this fix has been incorporated in the Oosterdam. The fix will be retrofitted into the Zuiderdam and that should eliminate the problem. The Vista Dining Experience: The quality of the food served in the main dining room has certainly improved over that we have had on other earlier HAL cruises. The presentation was excellent; the food arrived hot and cooked as desired and well seasoned. The appetizers were varied and tasty and the soups were wonderful, but the salads were a bit bland. The entrees seemed to be wholly enjoyed by all at our table. Noticeably absent from the menu were any veal dishes (a favorite of mine). Flowers and Art Work: This ship continues the HAL tradition of placing artwork, antiques and antique reproductions throughout the ship. Fine paintings of prior HAL ships and large pieces of art are found in the stairwells. Everything is labeled and one could spend quite a bit of time just studying the art onboard. Fresh flower arrangements are also spread throughout the public areas of the ship. Since the ship is so much larger than other HAL ships the arrangements just don't seem as numerous. The Crows Nest: The Crows Nest lounge is now a truly a nice evening venue for live music as this ship has a separate disco. On other HAL ships the Crows Nest is a dual-purpose room becoming a disco late in the evening. The Zuiderdam arrangement is far superior. The Crow's Nest surrounds the forward part of deck 10 providing tremendous views during the day. Unfortunately reclining leather-covered lounge chairs that line the forward glass wall of the lounge were broken. I would think that the chairs would have to be replaced with sturdier chairs. The sides of the crows nest are decorated differently from the main area giving them a different feel from the main lounge. These areas feature ceilings with Murano glass tiles. The Vista Lounge: The Vista lounge design is much better than that of the other HAL ships. The lower level is steeply inclined to provide stadium like seating that provides excellent views for everyone except those unlucky enough to be sitting behind one the support columns of which there are more than a few. The upper level also provides pretty good sightlines. The dEcor is bold being all red and there is a fabric covered ceiling decoration that looks like a huge parachute. The stage, lighting, sound and special effects are state of the art. Unfortunately so is the music, which is all prerecorded eliminating that special feel that a live orchestra provides. The shows are good, standard production fare, a magician, a male singer and a comedian rounded out the entertainment and all were fine. Public Restrooms: There seems to be a dearth of public rest rooms or perhaps there are enough but they are placed in strange locations. Many times it was simply easier to go back to the room rather than search around looking for one, which is not very convenient. What bathrooms there are were nicely decorated and provided with clean hand towels to dry your hands and even the men's rooms have small vases of flowers in them. The Queens Lounge: The Queens Lounge serves as a dual-purpose room being both a lounge and movie theater. While practical it lacks the feel of a true movie theater, the seating is of the lounge type and site lines are poor from the sides as the movie screen is set too far back on the stage to be seen. However, freshly popped popcorn is still served when movies are shown and the sound system is very good. The Northern Lights Disco: For those who enjoy disco the much talked about Northern Lights Disco certainly has a unique and somewhat bizarre color scheme that looks like a giant commercial for Gateway computers as all the seating and some walls have a what looks like a faux cowhide finish in black and white. But it is a real disco and was well used on our sailing. The Sports Bar: A first for HAL this bar is located adjacent to the casino and since we were cruising during the playoffs it became a popular spot at night. Some complaints were made that college football games were not being shown. Instead international sports such as soccer were on the numerous boob tubes. The Elevators: Unlike previous HAL ships the elevators lack fold down seats in them. I never used the seats so I don't know if this is a good or bad thing. The elevator interiors are very bold in color, which wakes you up in the morning! The glass enclosed elevators that face outward and provide ocean views are delightful and a real plus. Miscellaneous: We never visited the Piano Bar but it seemed a nicely decorated room. Being nonsmokers we never visited the Oak Room, which is the cigar smoker's lounge. Unlike other HAL ships there is no self-service laundry. If need be you can fill a laundry bag with dirty clothes and have them all cleaned for a flat $12 charge. Room service was excellent providing a good selection of items and was always on time. Be sure to tip the steward a dollar or two. The Service: Traditional HAL service was somewhat hard to come by on this ship. The crew seemed a bit tired as they have been onboard since the beginning and seem to be getting worn down a bit. The warm and gracious service that we have found on other HAL ships was noticeably absent in most areas of Zuiderdam. However there were still some bright spots to be found, some service people that greeted you warmly, remembered your name and even from where you came from. Hopefully this will improve as fresh crew is brought aboard and the existing crew is recycled for some well earned rest. First impressions can be both misleading and/or correct. In the case of the Zuiderdam they turned out to be both, especially for those who have sailed on Holland America's other ships. Upon first entering the ship and having a quick look around one starts to wonder, "Where is the Holland America interior that I have grown to love?" The colors are so much bolder and bright that you almost think that you are surely on a Carnival ship. After awhile though you begin to notice the decorator touches and finishes that make HAL what it is. The flowers are still there, the Murano glass is still there, as are the artwork, and antiques and high value finishes such as leather and suede. It's just that it takes some time to notice some of them. My fellow passengers confirmed these impressions. First time HAL cruisers loved the interior designs and those who have sailed on other HAL ships did not find some of them quite as appealing. For me the emotions and feelings about this ship are quite mixed. It has some truly great pluses and some truly great misses from a design standpoint. The plusses are the Odyssey Restaurant, a truly magnificent alternative dining venue, A Lido buffet area that does a terrific job at keeping lines small by splitting food service into six different major food stations plus two desert bars. The minuses are just as significant. The Vista Dining Room is too small and seating is very tight. Seating in the Lido is inadequate to handle the number of passengers dining there for breakfast or lunch, although this should soon be rectified. The Ocean Bar is a total flop losing all of the charm and ambiance that make the Ocean bars on other HAL ships so special. Finally the atrium is actually so small as I hesitate to call it an atrium. It seems even smaller than those on the smaller HAL fleets and should only be considered as passage between decks. Finally, did I enjoy this cruise and ship. The answer is absolutely and positively yes! While many of the comments I have made may seem negative understand that may dislikes we are a talking a matter of degree from a very high opening standard and expectation. They should be not be misconstrued as being a total dislike or condemnation for the ship or the cruise. It is just a fact that the Zuiderdam is so different from previous HAL offerings that one cannot help but to make comparisons. Apparently even HAL has done some rethinking and the evidence can be seen in the follow-on Oosterdam and Westerdam as they have reportedly returned to a more traditional HAL interior dEcor. For the most part our cruise was delightful and we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. I would recommend this ship to my friends. For all cruise lines and cruise ships the bottom line is "Would I sail on this ship again?" For us the answer is yes. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2003
My husband and I recently sailed the Zuiderdam with our 2 grandchildren ages 7 and 5. We have also sailed the Maasdam, Ryndam, Veendam, Statendam and the old Westerdam. I was a little apprehensive after I read some of the reviews of the ... Read More
My husband and I recently sailed the Zuiderdam with our 2 grandchildren ages 7 and 5. We have also sailed the Maasdam, Ryndam, Veendam, Statendam and the old Westerdam. I was a little apprehensive after I read some of the reviews of the "Z" but we had obtained what I felt was a great deal on two adjoining balcony cabins on the Verandah deck. Overall - the ship is great. No odors, great food and service. Our only major complaint was the cold temperature in the main showroom. It was much too cold for comfort. Club Hal is fantastic for children. Amy (the person in charge of the children's programs) has a genuine love for the children and managed to keep our granddaughters very amused. Every time there was an activity they wanted to attend. She was very creative and it seemed that all of the children in the 5-12 age group (approximately 10) had a fantastic time with her. The 7 year old is a 3 X cruiser and was thrilled to be a part of the juggler's act one evening. A real highlight for her and I was the proud grandmother in the audience. The 5 year old did not want to get off the ship and wanted to sail forever. Never a mention of Mommy or Daddy - she was having too good a time to think about home. My husband and I have sailed Celebrity and Holland America many times and we really enjoyed this new ship. The balconies were very enjoyable and my husband will be hard pressed to get me back into an interior cabin. The food was excellent and hot dishes were hot and cold dishes were cold. The staff was extremely busy but managed to take care of most passengers needs. There are always those who can't be satisfied and there were a few around us that had to find fault for one thing or another. I was very discouraged to see passengers walk out of the dining room without even a handshake. I know Holland America has a no tipping required policy but I think it is only reasonable that the staff be recognized by passengers with a gratuity for the service provided. I have no complaints about the ship or the service. Shore excursions continue to be, in my opinion, a real rip off on all of the lines. My big disappointment was with some fellow passengers. Many people talked with us and commented on how well behaved the children were and both their grandfather and I were proud of their behavior. However there are some people that do not like children in any shape or form. I had to bite my tongue numerous times because of passengers having a problem with splashing in the pool, laughing at the pool, etc. One gentleman said he thought children should be banned from cruising and that their be a minimum age of 60 for cruises. What a sad human being he is - he doesn't realize how much he can learn from the younger generation. My hat is off to Holland America for providing top quality entertainment, food, lodging and service at a very affordable price. The new ship is lovely and I wish I could sail again next week! Do not be scared off by any negative comments - she is a great ship with a great crew. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2003
Just returned from active duty; was called up and spent 5 months in the desert. My wife and I needed this cruise. It was our 5th cruise, having sailed on Celebrity, NCL, Princess and and earlier HAL ship. We found a good deal on HAL ... Read More
Just returned from active duty; was called up and spent 5 months in the desert. My wife and I needed this cruise. It was our 5th cruise, having sailed on Celebrity, NCL, Princess and and earlier HAL ship. We found a good deal on HAL Zuiderdam and enjoyed 7 days on this ship. We are in our 50's and found other cruisers were of similar age although there were plenty of 30 something and 60 something. Embarkation was a breeze and we were on the ship within 30 minutes. Food was great, shows were good, and the cabin was the best. Lots of room and a nice size balcony. The ship was in great shape and looked new. Service was very good. The Zuiderdam cruise was our best so far with Celebrity not far behind. Will be sailing on Zuiderdam again March 13, 2004, this time in a full suite with all the perks. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2003
This is a chronicle of back-to-back cruises on Holland America Line's ms Zuiderdam, the first of HAL's Vista Class ships. Itineraries, Sept 6 - 20, 2003: Week One - Western Caribbean - Key West, Cozumel Mexico, Georgetown Grand ... Read More
This is a chronicle of back-to-back cruises on Holland America Line's ms Zuiderdam, the first of HAL's Vista Class ships. Itineraries, Sept 6 - 20, 2003: Week One - Western Caribbean - Key West, Cozumel Mexico, Georgetown Grand Cayman, Half Moon Cay Bahamas. Week Two - Eastern Caribbean - Half Moon Cay, Philipsburg St Maarten, St Thomas USVI, Nassau Bahamas. Sea days were Monday and Thursday, both weeks. Ship's time equal to local at all ports. Zuiderdam sails on Saturday. Precruise: I seem unable to find a travel agent versed in the cruise industry. I became so frustrated dealing with amateurs, that I decided to try out booking directly with HAL. The service was terrific, and the price was actually less than what I saw quoted on cruise agency web sites. The HAL reps were unfailingly courteous and helpful. During initial booking, the reservations representative steered me away from less desirable cabins. She sent my booking confirmation and invoice while we were on the phone by e-mail attachment (Adobe Acrobat). When I later discovered we were eligible for an AARP discount, it was quickly taken care of. The whole experience was so clean and efficient it would take a significant discount for me to return to booking with a travel agent. Of course you can book completely on-line, but I'd advise talking to a HAL rep who can provide assistance with cabin location. If you require a little hand holding, HAL will assign a personal "Cruise Consultant" to assist you so you'll be able to consistently deal with the same person. We flew Continental out of Houston, TX (IAH) to Zuiderdam's homeport, Fort Lauderdale, FL (FLL) one day early. Stayed overnight at the Renaissance Hotel on 17th Street, approximately mid way between the airport and HAL's pier 26 at Port Everglades. The location, AAA's four diamond rating, and a low government rate made this a good stop over. Renaissance is a comfortable hotel with an excellent, but pricey, restaurant. Boarding: Zuiderdam begins boarding to the ship's public areas at 11:30AM. Open and active are the pool and grill, Windstar Cafe (an Italian coffee bar with moderate charges for coffee and pastries), Internet cafe, art gallery, front office and most of the lounges. Luggage and coat storage is also available. The Lido buffet begins serving lunch at 12:00N. Cabins are ready for occupancy by 1:30PM. We arrived about 11:15AM and were aboard by noon. There were at least two dozen HAL rep's in the terminal to process passengers. Our luggage was delivered soon after the cabins were open. The Ship: Zuiderdam has eleven decks. Decks four thru eight and part of deck two are cabins. Two per cabin occupancy is 1,824 with 800 crewmembers. She weighs 82,000 tons and is 935 feet long so that three circuits around the continuous lower promenade deck approximates one mile. She is powered by five diesel engines and one gas turbine, and she is propelled by 25,000 bhp Azipod props (more about these later). The dEcor is appropriate to the itinerary. Zuiderdam was built and designed for year round Caribbean cruising and the interior motifs reflect this concept. Some areas offer a challenge to navigate; especially the central lounges adjoining the casino on deck two. There are nooks, crannies and small corridors to deal with, somewhat similar to what is occasionally found in the lounge areas of some land resort hotels. Maybe this is what the designers had in mind? The central atrium is smaller than on the S Class ships. This provides more space for the lounges and other public areas, but I miss the larger atrium which I often use as a reference point for navigation. The ship is impeccably clean and shows little signs of wear, a credit to the maintenance crew, her Hotel Manager Nick Burger, and Captain Johannes van Biljouw. Zuiderdam's condition and appearance is extraordinary considering that 1800 people tramp through her every week. Unlike the S Class ships, Zuiderdam does not have a passenger use laundry. Twice we used the $12 per 'full bag' laundry service. Both times delivery was next day. The Lounges: The Best: Crow's Nest. Great viewing lounge with huge wraparound window located forward on deck ten. Cocktail piano, also theme night music such as 50s & 60s tunes by CD. Explorer's Lounge. Classical music by The Rosario Strings. This is also the venue for afternoon tea. Excellent snacks and a good selection of teas (save room for the scones!). The Worst: Queen's Lounge. So poorly designed that it's useless for any function. That's too bad because The HAL Cats, a truly good band fronted by a first-rate vocal quartet, plays danceable music here most nights. Ocean Bar - Once again, poor design. This lounge is totally open to the atrium losing any identity as a lounge, and the dance floor is too small. For some incomprehensible reason, a divider is installed across the center of the seating area, disconnecting the rear of the lounge from the front. Music is by Meir & Rae Ann on drums and a piano. How eclectic is that? Music is mostly traditional dance: fox trot, waltz, tango, etc. No Opinion: Northern Lights - Late night activity usually starting at 10PM, mostly disco and light rock. A DJ spinning CDs supplies music. Booth seating surrounds a largish dance floor. Design by Gateway. There's also a Sports Bar. Since the signal is international, the TV schedules are mainly soccer. A WNBA game was showing on NFL Sunday afternoon! To be fair, they do pick up Sunday and Monday night NFL games. The Vista Lounge, The main showroom is forward on decks one and two. This is an attractive room of good design with comfortable seating. Just don't sit behind one of the many pillars or in the rear of the upper section. Unfortunately, the quality of the shows does not match the setting. The production shows are LOUD. Who decided that loud is good? To paraphrase Shakespeare, let's kill all the soundmen, too! Following cruise ship tradition there are two production shows. The first was decent, but the second, a review of movie musicals, was near unbearable. Almost every number, including the romantic ballads, was programmed in a hyper, upbeat tempo, making all the tunes sound alike. The show was completely out of sync and boring. The music for the production shows is prerecorded. Did I mention that it is LOUD? The cast was excellent with talented dancers and singers, all completely wasted. We didn't repeat any shows during week two. The Vista Dining Room: An attractive and well-constructed design. There are two levels located aft on decks two and three. Seating is well organized with comfortable chairs and some banquet tables. Best of all, each dining area has its own galley located immediately adjacent to the dining rooms. Instead of waiting for dumb waiters from a galley below, dishes are more directly served. This means hot dishes arrive hot and cold are offered cold. You do want to avoid seating the far aft section of the lower dining room. When cranked up the Azipod propulsion system delivers a significant vibration. The shaking is primarily felt on the back end of the lower deck. However, it's only a problem when the engines are pressed. The captain tries to maintain lower revs during dining hours, but there are times they must be turned up. When this happens the place settings won't dance off the tables, but it's definitely uncomfortable. Our cabin: Since we were on for two weeks I upgraded us from our usual standard outside to a "superior verandah suite" located amidships on deck six. The SS cabin is 288sft, and the balcony 100sft. The room is well designed with two queen size beds, which we had put together, a restful full sized fold out sofa, three chairs (one too many), a glass top coffee table, a writing desk and the standard desk. There are plenty of drawers, shelves and closets. The bathroom is large, with a full size Jacuzzi tub, a separate shower stall, double sinks, two medicine chests and a long shelf running under the sinks. The standard outside cabins, as well as the inside (if you don't mind the dark), are more than adequate in size and design. DVD rentals are available from the front desk. There's a $25 deposit for each disk. Dining: The Vista dining room offerings are equal to, and often exceed, Celebrity. The quality and presentation is far better than on the other HAL ships we've sailed on. Menu selections are extensive: two or three selections are available for each precourse and there are four primary and three "from the grill" optional entrees every night. Steaks and prime rib are delivered to order; however, note that medium rare is usually too rare for the distaff side. The Odyssey has to be the best alternative restaurant at sea. It even rivals the best upscale steak houses on land. Steaks, rib eye, tenderloin and two sizes of filet mignon are offered. The steaks are Prime Sterling beef and are cooked on a 1600 degree grill. It doesn't get any better than this. Although the menu features steak, the other entrees are superb, most notable is a seafood ravioli. The wait staff was recruiting out of Hungary, primarily Budapest. HAL obviously sought out the best servers among Budapest's world-class restaurants. They are smooth, attentive and prompt. With minimal delay between courses, we were in and out in less than an hour and a half. This whole staff was brought on board Saturday, the thirteenth. Some early patrons complained of uneven and clumsy service. However, we dined there on Wednesday evening, and it seemed they'd been serving there forever. It's a testament to their skills that they adapted in such a short time. These guys are good! The Crew: The Indonesian dining stewards and The Philippine bar staffs were excellent as usual. Nearly all were up to HAL standards. Oddly enough, there were a few grumps, who even bordered on rude. I don't recall experiencing this on previous cruises with HAL. Oddly enough, one of the ice cream servers was a real grouch, which is totally out of character for that station. Fortunately, the grouches were fringe players and a very small minority. The dining room staff were prompt and, as you'd expect, well trained, cheerful and eager to serve. Our Head Steward, Alexander, was especially caring, very personable and always ready to lend a hand. My wife is originally from Japan. Wayan, our table steward for both weeks, spoke fluent Japanese providing my better half with a special feeling of welcome. We had two different cabin stewards each week, both efficient and in the best tradition of cabin stewards: always out when we were in, and in when we were out. Ridwan, our steward the first week, had completed his twelve-month contract. Saturday afternoon he flew home on leave before continuing on to Nice to help outfit Vista Class number three, ms Westerdam, which is scheduled to launch May 2004. The ship's officers seem friendlier than on other ships, always offering a greeting and a smile. It's amazing how the front office staff manages to maintain a cheerful and polite appearance in spite of the frequent rudeness and confrontational attitude of so many guests. For some reason, people seem to adopt an 'in your face' attitude with these gals who, after all, are really no more than desk clerks without any real authority to resolve disputes or provide managerial decisions. Despite this, all of the front desk people were consistently courteous and helpful. Guests ought to realize that only a supervisor or the guest relation's manager can resolve problems. Often, even they have to get instructions from Seattle to resolve a policy dispute. The Passengers: A more diverse age mix than on other HAL cruises. The Zuiderdam is evidently appealing to the younger set. The dress code was universally observed in the main dining room. Formal night saw only a few out of uniform in the other public areas. Over the two weeks, four of our eight tablemates were from Florida, two from NYC and two from Canada. Naturally, there are lots of Floridians taking advantage of the "Florida Resident Discount". Speaking of discounts, midway of the first week a flyer was distributed offering the following week for $199 inside or $299 outside, a pretty good deal! I've never seen this before, nor was it repeated during the next cruise. I suspect Hurricane Isabel precipitated cancellations and HAL decided any revenue is better than none. After all, a major profit element is the money we spend while on board. As regards the small people, school was back in session so there was only a small number of toddlers and a couple of infants. On board is a dedicated kids area called Club HAL. It must have been nearly deserted. Shore excursions -- I discovered snorkeling on our first cruise and became instantly captivated. As a result, I have very little first hand knowledge about above water activities on any of the islands. It was only due to a sore throat in the middle of week two that wifey and I did a land/water tour on St Maarten. Booked through the ship, it's titled "French Connection Sea & See". It's a bus transit around the island interrupted by a shopping stop in Marigot and tour of coral reefs at Grand Case's Creole rock. Creole Rock is purported to be the best snorkeling area around the island. I saw enough while on the glass bottom boat to suggest that snorkeling would be very marginal here. The bottom is mainly rocks with some coral and common fish such as Sergeant Majors and Wrasses. Lots of huge Uni, however, made my wife's taste buds tingle. This was aboard the "Seaworld Explorer', an underwater moving observatory. The tour was a good overview of the island, but the guide went around the island bassackward, stopping in Marigot first. Most of the stores in Marigot follow the French tradition of closing between one and two o'clock which is when we were there, resulting in a wasted forty-minute stop. That was too bad because there are some nice shops in Marigot. The wife, an avid casino connoisseur, took the "Discover Atlantis & Harbor Cruise" in Nassau. This is a gal who considers Las Vegas resorts 'quaint', but found Atlantis too gigantic. In the end, she simply made a small donation to the slot machine gods and returned to the ship. Now for the good stuff. The following snorkel trips are listed in order from best to least good; however, the least is still darned good. Nassau: "Snorkel Bahamas Adventure" is a 5-½ hour trip operated by Stuart's Cove. On a previous excursion I went on the impressive Athol Island snorkel. This Stuart's Cove outing surpassed all of my previous experiences, including Athol Island. The boat trip is @ three hours, and visits Schoolhouse Reef, the spectacular Golden Key Reef and finally a "swim with the sharks" at 'The Wreck of the Bahama Mama'. I have never before witnessed such a number and variety of fish as at Golden Key. There are never-ending fish, large and small, singly and in large schools. The floor is decorated with huge, magnificent coral formations of all shapes and sizes. While there, a shark cruised past our group. He obviously thought this was his ocean and didn't know, nor care, that we weren't scheduled for a shark encounter until after Golden Key. Surprisingly, getting in with a dozen or so sharks is not frightening. I suspect we were too caught up with their grace and magnificence to be scared. The fact that the boat captain hadn't lost a diver in twelve years was also encouraging. This is a five star, gold medallion, prime trip, not to be missed! Georgetown: I booked a two reef and stingray swim with Capt Marvin. This is again a three-hour boat trip with snorkel stops at Coral Gardens and the Barrier Reef, followed by a visit to Stingray City. The Barrier Reef extends for many miles and is near enough to the surface to be visible from above. There is abundant sea life, and of course, extensive coral. Here I saw my first Moray eel. As for Stingray City, there are just too many boats and people crowded together to enjoy it. I stumbled around among the crowd for a bit, then got back in the boat. The kids seem to enjoy it. Key West: A catamaran trip to Sand Key Reef with the Fury Cat operation. Fury is found extensively through the Yucatan and Caribbean. Our trip was on a 65' catamaran with a small enough group so we were never crowded. Unfortunately, westerly winds from the recent tropical disturbance in The Gulf had stirred things up so that visibility was only about 15 - 20 feet. The reef, however, is marvelous. Did you know that the reef off Florida's coast is the third largest in the world? I didn't. We got enough of a taste to make me want to return. I can unreservedly recommend this trip. Half Moon Cay: A surprisingly good snorkel trip. The coral garden area is only a ten-minute boat ride from the tender dock with lots of fish and coral. There's a very nice beach, but the bottom is too sandy for good snorkeling. Just relaxing on the beach and swimming is the most popular past time. There are lots of beach toys and other activities available for rent. Comfortable beach chairs are plentiful. There's also a pavilion with souvenir shops and a bar. A barbecue lunch is served at noontime. Half Moon Cay is perfect for kicking back and enjoying a restful day. Cozumel: We went to Chankanaab Park for snorkeling and beach time. The park offers a sheltered beach area with palapas, a lagoon, a swim with the dolphins, a sea lion show, snuba and a number of boat trip operators who work from the beach area. There's also a full menu bar & grill. The conch ceviche was very good. There's probably lots of other stuff, too. Unfortunately, the beach was fly infested so we didn't stay long. The snorkeling from the beach is fair. Dzul Ha is much better, but you can experience some swift currents there. Chankanaab's waters are more sheltered, so it's a good alternative for marginal swimmers. I have previously boat snorkeled Columbia and Palancar reefs from Cozumel. The reefs here are world class and there are many good operators. Disembarkation: The procedure has greatly improved since our last visit. Immigration is held in the terminal, not on board. This greatly expedites clearance since we don't have to wait for the inevitable latecomers to clear before we can leave the ship. The preliminaries are routine: put luggage in hallway the night before, leave your cabin by 8:00AM and wait in a public area for your number/letter to be called. Both the Lido and main dining rooms are open for breakfast. We had a noon flight and were off the ship and at our boarding gate by 9:30. Of course, when all those ships return from Alaska things won't go so smoothly. I should mention that stuff happens. Disembarkation was delayed the previous Saturday due to a late departure the previous day from Half Moon Cay. However, even then we would likely have been at the airport by 10:30 or 11:00. Final Thoughts: As devotees of HAL, we were concerned because of the numerous negative Zuiderdam reviews that appeared in the early months. Certainly Zuiderdam has some odd quirks, but the overall design is easily adapted to and becomes an ultimately user friendly floating resort. We found absolutely no evidence of unpleasant aromas in any area. The mechanical systems such as toilets, A/C, hot water, elevators, etc never failed. Fellow passengers were largely polite, friendly and in pursuit of a fun trip. We never witnessed one instance of rowdy or inappropriate behavior. We had a wonderful journey. My advice is go and enjoy. Following are some of the web sites I found useful researching our cruise: ms Zuiderdam: http://www.hollandamerica.com/fivestarfleet/zuiderdam.htm ms Zuiderdam Virtual Tour: http://www.virtualtoursusa.com/hollandzuiderdam.htm Port Everglades: http://www.co.broward.fl.us/port.htm Georgetown: http://www.edenrockdive.com/ http://www.captainmarvins.com/ http://www.caymanonline.com/info/watersports/snorkel/index.shtml Cozumel: http://www.cozumelinsider.com/ Key West: http://www.furycat.com/snorkel.htm Nassau: http://www.dive-bahamas.com/ Philipsburg: http://www.stmaarten-activities.com/trips.htm - Snorkelin St Thomas: http://www.vinow.com/ http://www.cokidive.com/ Travel Insurance: http://www.insuremytrip.com/ Read Less
Sail Date: September 2003
We are Dan & Cheryl, a married couple of about 5 months when we went on the Zuiderdam from September 13-20, 2003. We drove from Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale on the 12th, not even sure if we were going on a cruise or not—Hurricane ... Read More
We are Dan & Cheryl, a married couple of about 5 months when we went on the Zuiderdam from September 13-20, 2003. We drove from Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale on the 12th, not even sure if we were going on a cruise or not—Hurricane Isabel seemed a sure bet to hit dead on where we wanted to be, so we were pretty nervous about whether or not we would get to go. We had called Holland America a couple of times, and both times they told us that if at all possible, the cruise would go—maybe on a different itinerary, maybe a day late, but it would go nonetheless. We arrived to find out that although the hurricane remained strong, our captain had chosen to stick with the planned Eastern Caribbean itinerary of Half Moon Cay, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and Nassau. This was great news, as we had really been looking forward to going to St. Thomas together (Dan had been there on a Celebrity cruise with his family about 2 weeks before proposing to Cheryl, and really wanted her to see what he considered the most romantic spot on earth!) This was Cheryl's 2nd cruise, and Dan's 4th. (He had two previous cruises with his family on Celebrity, and we had gone on Royal Caribbean for our honeymoon). We were cruising with Dan's parents and his 2 younger sisters. All of us had booked inside staterooms. Our first impression of the Zuiderdam was that she was HUGE, and completely gorgeous with all of her banners flying (and with Isabel wreaking havoc somewhere out there, believe me, those banners were FLYING!) Our inside staterooms were more than adequate, and extremely well appointed and decorated. There was storage space everywhere, and plenty of it—we were extremely comfortable, even with Cheryl's tendency to overpack—WAY overpack. One of our favorite features were all of the different lightswitches—you could control all of the lights in the room from anywhere in the room, including the bed. This was wonderful for reading in bed with every light on, and turning them all out without even having to move. Holland America's reputation for great service held true in a big way---Our stateroom attendant, Iman from the Philippines, was an extremely gracious host, willing to go the extra mile to make us comfortable. We greatly enjoyed getting to know him over the course of the week—he even made us an origami version of the Zuiderdam on the last night, and wrote on it how much he had enjoyed taking care of us for the week! We took great care in getting it home safely, and it sits on top of our refrigerator, reminding us of our cruise and the wonderful hospitality we received. The dining room service was equally wonderful—the Filipino and Indonesian crew aboard the Zuiderdam take great pride in their service, and they should—it is the best we have experienced. Our head waiter, Subur, was a very visible presence each night, and kept us entertained—both with his quick wit and his warm, engaging personality. He truly made us to feel like honored guests in his home. Our waiter, Denny, was equally wonderful. He took great care of us all week, (welcoming us to "Denny's" restaurant each night!) remembering what each of us liked with our meal and making sure that we got it—whether it was on the menu or not. He did magic tricks for us, and really spent a great deal of time getting to know us. Our assistant waiter, Hendra, was a wonderful person and server as well—He was a bit of a shy young man, but over the course of the week really opened up to us. He seemed truly saddened when we left, and spoke very wistfully of what a happy family we seemed to have. He is engaged to his sweetheart back home, hoping to make enough money on the cruise boat to go home and marry her and be able to live comfortably. We wish him all the best, as we do to all of the wonderful crew. We can't mention the crew, without mentioning a few other standouts—Imam from the Lido, who learned (and remembered!!) the names of just about everyone who went through his breakfast line in the morning, and welcomed each one so warmly. Eep, who also served in the Lido, and also spoke to us each day and inquired how our day went—and truly listened to the answer. Every member of this crew, even the ones not assigned to our dining room table or our staterooms, went out of their way not only to provide great service, but to be warm and friendly and to make you feel like welcome friends. The weather during the week was (understandably!) a little bit different. The seas were quite high at times, and you could truly feel the moving of the ship. All of this was due to the hurricane, though it was many, many miles away, stirring up the waters. One night in particular during the middle of the week, it felt like if you didn't hold on, you could just about be rolled out of the bed. And we did see some rain, but every port was beautiful! Regarding some of the infamous Zuiderdam "problems"—the ONLY one that I can vouch for is the movement and the engine noise in the dining room. We were on the very back, at the windows, looking out over the water coming out of the propellers, and I can definitely say that we could feel movement, our water glasses and plates vibrated, and that on certain nights when we were moving at a high rate of speed, the engine noise was distracting. I definitely understand why this has been so highly debated—there are many areas in the dining room that did NOT have this problem—it seems to only be near the very back, and only on one level. I also have no doubt that the rough seas (again, the wonderful Isabel) exacerbated the problem. However, did it ruin our cruise? No. Did it ruin our dinner? No. We may have been just a little seasick at dinner one night, but the food onboard the Zuiderdam cured us pretty quickly! We all have different tastes, and all enjoy different kinds of food, but we all found plenty of food to love on the Zuiderdam. The Lido had a little bit of everything (we ate breakfast and lunch their almost every day, and the selection was unparalleled), and the food in the Vista Dining Room was equally delicious. Every steak, every fish dinner, every single thing we ordered seemed prepared perfectly. Excellent quality and quantity. We are not gourmet food critics, just normal people, but we couldn't find anything to complain about. A quick word about the ports— Half Moon Cay has to be the most beautiful island I have ever visited. We had perfect weather (amazingly) and it was beautiful. We swam in the crystal clear water, laid on the beach in the sand, and enjoyed the delicious barbecue lunch provided by Holland America. What more can you ask for? It was truly an island paradise. St. Maarten was wonderful—There was only one other ship in port—from what we were told, a LOT of cruiselines and ships decided to take the Western route for the week due to, yes you guessed it, the hurricane. Also, from what we heard, by staying on our original Eastern course, not only did we have less crowded islands, we apparently got the better weather, too. We had rough seas sometimes, but the weather in every port was beautiful. We took a water taxi to another part of the island immediately after docking, and found a private tour van. The driver agreed to take the six of us for $20 apiece on a tour of both the French and Dutch sides of the island. We really enjoyed this, as we saw not only the touristy spots on the island, but the way the people lived. She stopped at several beautiful spots to give us a chance to take pictures, and a couple of times at different places to let us shop. She did make one stop that we would rather she had not—she stopped at a hole-in-the-wall tavern to go in and buy herself some kind of alcoholic drink, that she proceeded to drink for the rest of the tour. When we started going up and down the little winding roads up in the mountains, that got a little scary—I prefer sober tourguides! In St. Thomas, (where, thanks once again to Hurricane Isabel, we were the ONLY boat in port! Woo-hoo!) Dan and I set out alone to enjoy the island together. We got on a tour tram with a wonderful tourguide named John. He started the tour with his open-air tram full, but at the first stop (Sapphire Beach), everyone but us got off the bus, and wanted to stay to swim! So from that point on, we had a private tour of the island—just the two of us. John took us to several beautiful spots on the way up the mountain to take pictures, took us to the Magen's Bay Overlook, Mountaintop, and several other places. He even took pictures for us of the two of us together, when he saw us taking pictures of each other. We knew we would enjoy the beauty of St. Thomas, and that we wanted to be alone there, but we certainly never expected a private tour! On the way back, he stopped at several places to see if anybody was ready to go back, but they weren't—it wasn't until we got back to Sapphire Beach (almost back to where we would get off the tour) that there were other people on our bus again, and then only for a few miles! We went back to the boat and had lunch, and wanted to go back out swimming, but it was just so much money for another cab ride to anywhere to swim, that we gave up and just walked around in town some. St. Thomas is definitely the most beautiful and breathtaking place I have ever seen. In Nassau, we immediately took a taxi over to Paradise Island, and walked through as much of the beautiful Atlantis hotel as we could. Then, we set off on foot to a local public beach, with our minds set on renting jetskis—it was a pretty good walk, but not terribly bad. It wasn't hard to find the guys selling time on jetskis—they find you. After we talked the guy WAY down on his price, Dan & I bought half an hour on one jetski, while his sisters bought an hour on another. We took turns driving, and just had a blast out in the water for a half hour. The water was EXTREMELY choppy—probably the roughest weather we had in a port all week—but Dan just thought that made the jetski that much more fun. After our half hour was up, we thought we might try swimming—but the water was so rough, nobody was going in more than ankle deep—we tried it, and ended up getting wiped out and rolling back through the sand, scraping up elbows and knees and getting COVERED in sand. Sand was still coming out of both of our ears WEEKS after we got back. Enough swimming for one day. We went back to the boat for lunch, and then Dan and I ventured back out into Nassau alone. We walked through the straw market (got a BEAUTIFUL Nassau picture frame for $1.00—talked down from $7.00!), and then came the best part of our whole cruise—our Nassau Adventure. Dan spotted a horse-drawn buggy, and, after once again talking the guy down on his price, we went on a horse-drawn carriage ride through the streets of Nassau! It was extremely romantic, and our driver was hilarious—he kept us laughing the whole ride. He was quite a driver, too—when he was ready to go, he just pulled out in front of everybody. We nearly caused multiple accidents, but it was just so much fun. We ended up running back to the boat to get our camera to come back and have our picture made with him—we left the boat 30 minutes before departure time(!!!) to run back into town, had our picture made with our horse & buggy, and then got back on the boat FIVE minutes before all aboard time—It was probably the most fun twenty-five minutes that either of us have ever had on a cruise, and definitely our best memory! Back to the boat, and time to pack that night! But who cares, we were still on a cruise! We were playing shuffleboard at midnight, unpacked, when bags had to be in the hall by 2:00—but we made it, and all is well that ends well. Debarkation came, and it was a fairly smooth, if long & drawn out, process. The beautiful Zuiderdam and her incredible staff had given us a trip of a lifetime, and we will never forget it. Would we take this boat again? You better believe it—first chance we get!! ? Read Less
Sail Date: May 2000
General Information -- The following is a detailed account of our cruise on the Zuiderdam from May 14-21, 2005. We are two professionals in our early 50's who are on our fourth cruise in only 24 months. Our first three trips took ... Read More
General Information -- The following is a detailed account of our cruise on the Zuiderdam from May 14-21, 2005. We are two professionals in our early 50's who are on our fourth cruise in only 24 months. Our first three trips took place on Princess ships to Alaska, Western Caribbean, and the Panama Canal. We found both positive and negative points on the Zuiderdam and will point them out in this review. The Zuiderdam is a large beautiful ship built in 2002. The interior color scheme is very unusual with oranges, blues and purples galore. These colors and the shape of the ceilings reminded us of the set using for the cartoon show, the Jetsons. There are a lot of nooks and crannies so we got the feeling we were almost alone on the ship. The atrium seemed smaller than on previous ships we had been on and did not go from the top to the bottom of the ship. There was an abundance of elevators - four each in the bow and aft and six in the center. Four of these center elevators were glass-enclosed and allowed us to see outside the ship as we traveled vertically. Very seldom did we have to wait long to use one of these elevators. Signage was also strategically placed to help us find our bearings. We did find some unusual artwork scattered throughout the ship. Embarkment -- We flew into Fort Lauderdale the day before and stayed at our favorite motel in Dania, the Sleep Inn. This motel provides free transportation to and from the airport and the ship port. They also have good rates, an excellent breakfast and there is a Walgreen's and Publix store across the street for all the last minute items we needed (like pop and water). There is also a mom and pop-style Italian restaurant across the street with excellent garlic rolls and ice cream desserts. We took the hotel shuttle to the ship port at 10:00 on Saturday and were in line by 10:30. The porters try to get us to tip them, but there is a sign on the building stating that the porters were salaried and that tipping is not necessary. The ticket process started at 11:00 and 30 minutes later we were on board. Because we could not get into our stateroom until 1:30, we ate lunch on the Lido deck, took a short orientation walk and then ended up on the Crows' Nest where we rested in some nice captains chairs. There is also a facility onboard we could have stored our hand-carried luggage if we wanted until we got into our cabin. At 1:30, we were allowed to go to the cabin, but the luggage did not arrive until 4:30. We almost missed the muster drill because there was no announcement on the TV to go directly to our station. After 10 minutes of silence on our desk, we hurried down to our station and got our life jackets on. We came back to unpack our belongings and to participate in our Cruise Critic bon voyage party. Cabin and Surroundings -- We were in cabin SS 6064 which was on the port side of the ship between the bow and mid-point. This room was much larger than the mini-suite we had on a Princess ship. It included a queen-size bed, television, DVD player, vanity table, lots of closet space, a safe, and room to put the empty luggage under the bed. The bathroom too was spacious having a tub, a shower, and two sinks. We didn't feel like being in an MRI tube to shower like we had on previous trips. We loved the Royal Dutch soap and shampoo that was provided. The verandah was spacious as it contained two lounge chairs and a small table as well as another large eating table and two upright chairs. We opened the divider between the other cabins next to us (all Cruise Critic members) and had a six-cabin open veranda. Our cabin steward from Indonesia was called Harry and he kept our room in spotless shape. Walking down the hallway to our cabin was a chore. It seems that the "Z" is the first Vista ship to be built and they used poured concrete for the floors. This concrete is now breaking up and makes walking on it difficult (especially with high heels). HAL really needs to tear up the carpeting, patch up the cement and replace it with new carpeting. Perhaps they will perform this task at their next dry-dock. Food -- In general, the "lack of refrigeration" became the key phrase for the cruise. The ship was without a major refrigerator which malfunctioned most of the week and we were without ice cream, whole eggs and a lot of other foods. One official told us that over $250,000 worth of food was lost because of this problem. HAL brought in several portable refrigerators in St. Thomas and hopefully, got the problem fixed by the time the next cruise began. We went to the upscale Pinnacle restaurant on the first night (the price is reduced from $20 to $10 per person that evening). There were multiple courses, the food was tasty, and the service was superb. In fact it really spoils you for the rest of the cruise. We had filet minion and rib eye steaks for the main course, both made from the finest cuts of beef. We both favored the crème brulee over their famous chocolate volcano cake. Eating here is an experience all cruisers must indulge in at least once. Our breakfasts and lunches were all eaten at the buffet on the Lido deck. Instead of a long straight line like on the Princess ships, there were various stations which open and close at different times of the day. There were stations for Italian food, a bistro, express food, salad bar, etc. Also, instead of serving yourself, the food was dished out by the staff members. Tea and coffee was served with every meal as well as fresh squeezed orange juice in the morning and lemonade in the afternoon. A similar but limited meal found in the main dining room was provided for evening diners on the Lido deck. One afternoon, there were chocolate dipped strawberries available as well as giant prawns which we thoroughly enjoyed. During the afternoon upon arriving from a short excursion, we would go to the Lido deck and get something to eat to hold us over until dinner. However, sometimes we were disappointed as the desserts were not made by hand. This was verified by guests who told us the saw the cakes and pies bring taken out of store-brand boxes. I personally don't think the chefs onboard actually baked any desserts while we were there. We ate our evening meals in the Vista Dining Room. There are four different times scheduled and we were at the 6:15 setting on the lower level. We sat at a table with four ladies - a retired WWII nurse and her daughter and another nurse with her 93-year old aunt. With my wife being a nurse, you know what we talked about! The food in the Vista was tasty and we were able to sample a variety of different foods. We particularly liked the appetizers and cold soups and had several of each per meal. However, some of the desserts were not so appealing. The last night we had the signature dish - Baked Alaska as the ship brought onboard new ice cream that day when docked at Nassau. Another night we had lobster tales and I had read you needed to order at least two of them, which we did. Being from Kansas City, we like our barbecue. However, we found the food at the ship's barbecue was unappetizing. In fact, it tasted similar to the food served at lunch at Half Moon Cay. We did like the hamburgers and brats at the grill next to the pool area and ate there several times. Overall, we felt the food on the Princess ships was more tasty, there was more variety, and the presentation was better than on the Zuiderdam. But at least we were able to go a week without having to prepare meals and do the dishes, so that was a plus. Entertainment -- The nightly entertainment onboard ship was excellent. There was a female comedian Julie Barr who performed several nights, along with singer Alfreda Gerald, and James Cielen an illusionist. We really enjoyed the tricks Mr. Cielen performed and he used several animals in his act (including a white poodle). Several days earlier while on the fourth deck, we came across a white poodle prancing down the hall and it confused us. We knew there was a rule that no animals were allowed onboard and here there was a poodle in front of us. It didn't look like a seeing-eye dog and it wasn't until it was brought out during the show that it was the same poodle we had seen earlier. We also enjoyed the two shows done by the ship's professional dancers - one on the 50's and 60's and the other doing show tunes. Unfortunately, this is the last week these dancers were to perform on our ship. Ship Activities -- There were many activities onboard the ship each day for us to partake. We walked around the deck of the ship the mornings we did not have any shore excursions. It takes three complete laps for a mile and this is done on Deck 3. Beware that the decks can be wet and slippery and the winds could make your jogging/walking a real task. We did not use either the gym or the spa on this voyage. We visited the library and found a poor selection of books. Being a university library director, Ray scanned the titles and found very few current books available. Also, seldom was there a staff member available to assist us with accessing the collection. The ship photographers snapped our pictures at every port, formal dining room seating, etc. and then tried to sell us the pictures. We didn't like any of the poses so did not purchase any prints. Another activity we did not try on this cruise was to use the Internet. To do E-mail, it costs 50 cents a minute (slightly cheaper if you buy blocks of time), whereas it is only 35 cents a minute on the Princess ships. We believe HAL should reduce the rate for this service. We watched television programs in our cabin and enjoyed the selection provided by HAL. We enjoyed both the views from the bow and aft of the ship but did not care for the accompanied music selection. There were several movie channels, CNN international, and ESPN sports (usually soccer which we liked). We spent time attending the two art auctions and won several prints which we had framed and sent home. The auction included artists not shown on Princess ships and was performed in a slightly different manner. We brought our laptop computer onboard ship and took hundreds of photographs with our digital cameras. Then at night, we would download these pictures onto the computer and then make a backup onto CD's. We ended up with almost 1,000 pictures showing all aspects of our trip and some of these will end up on our Web page on the Internet. We also brought along a small stuffed Garfield cat and took many pictures of him around the ship. These photos will be developed into a cruise album starring "Garfield the Cat Taking a Cruise". Daily Activities -- For the most part, the weather was overcast and we had some rain throughout the week. The waves were also somewhat choppy while traveling to and from the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. The following is a sampling of what we did on our excursions: Half Moon Cay - We tendered over to HAL's private island about 9 a.m. and walked around the island. There were lockers on the island, but the majority of them were broken, so we ended up carrying our equipment with us all day. After cooling off in the shade for awhile, we ate their barbecue lunch and then snorkeled at the left side of the island near the children's area. We found that the hut above the rocks to be a great place to put our gear while we snorkeled as it was cool and not crowded. We had brought some small bits of dog food with us and that brought the fish in where we could take some photographs. About 2:30 p.m., we then tendered back to the ship. The water here was cooler than the other ports and there were not as many fish as we had hoped to see. It was a relaxing day and helped us prepare for the rest of the trip. Tortola - We had booked a catamaran/snorkeling cruise through Patouche and was their guests from 9 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. We got on a 49 foot catamaran with 10 other vacationers and sailed to Virgin Gorda where the famed Rocks are located. We walked through the rocks, snorkeled some in the area and then went to Cooper Island for some more snorkeling. They feed us onboard the ship, provided drinks, gave us a history of the region; all for only $90 per person. The weather was overcast and that kept the temperature down some and helped us not to burn so much. We highly recommend this tour. St. Thomas - We took a taxi to Coral World and Coki Beach ($7 per person) and received a $3 off coupon to Coral World from the cab driver. We rented a locker at Coral World for $3 and put our snorkeling gear in it and toured the facilities. There is a large sphere which allowed us to look into the outside coral reefs and see all the fish. There were also several other buildings with various marine life and a nature trail with larger animals. Special pools housed turtles, stingrays and there were iguana all around. One special treat we did was to pet a nurse shark. We then changed into our snorkeling gear and walked several hundred yards to Coki Beach. There were thousands of fish along the coral reef and they all loved my dog food pellets we provided. After snorkeling, we stopped at Havensight Shopping Mall and walked to the Kmart store (10 minutes away). However, we did not take the gondola up to Paradise Point as the cost was $16 each and the sky was overcast and you could not get a very good view. Nassau -We packed our luggage in the morning and watched as we sailed into Nassau around noon. There was a Disney ship, Carnival ship and the Norwegian Dawn which recently was hit with a huge wave. We walked around the town, visited the busy Straw Market, climbed the 66 steps of the Queen's Steps and visited the fort nearby. We could see the huge Atlantis Hotel on Paradise Island but did not have time to see her. Our opinion of Nassau was that it was a noisy, busy city and we did not feel very comfortable there. Cruise Critic -- One of the best features of this cruise was being involved with other members of Cruise Critic. We had a roll call of over 30 cruisers and have posted 600-plus messages. We talked about our trip for months and helped each other get ready for the voyage. There were cruisers from Washington DC, California, Louisiana, Florida, Boston, New Jersey, Kansas, and even New Zealand. There were even six groups who had cabins next to each other (we had Cruise Critic people from Washington DC and New Zealand on the two sides of us) and we opened up the verandah between our cabins and made one extremely long balcony. We invited Mr. James Deering, Hotel Manager for the "Z" to attend our bon voyage party and he spent over 30 minutes getting to know each and every Cruise Critic member. He took down our names, gave us his card in case we needed anything, and provided us tips on how to enjoy our tour. Mr. Deering also invited us to a reception with Mr. John Scott, the ship's captain. We found Mr. Scott to be very friendly and he took pictures will all of us. Our group has corresponded since our return and we are sure this will continue for many months to come. I highly recommend joining a Cruise Critic roll call and carry it through to the end of the cruise. Do's and Don'ts -- 1. Bring an extension cord with you. There are only two outlets: one in the cabin and one in the bathroom. If you have any technical equipment that needs charging up, you will need this cord to handle your needs. 2. Go to the bow of the ship for great photographs. If you walk to the front of deck four, there are two separate entrances to the bow. Photographs can be taken there without any Plexiglas barriers. Beware; it can be windy out there. 3. On surf and turf night in at dinner, orders at least two lobster tales - one is not enough. 4. Read the crisecritic.com religiously before you consider a cruise and before the cruise begins. We read it at least once a week all year round. 5. After lunch on the first day, go up to the Crows Nest where it is air conditioned, the scenery is great and the captains chairs are comfortable. We almost fell asleep before they called us to our cabins at 1:30 p.m. 6. Don't let taxi drivers try to sell your tours you don't want. Ask for the price of a specific location before you get out, have the exact change ready when you get to your destination, and say no for an extended rides (unless you want to). 7. There are no self-service laundry services available on the ship. Either you bring enough clothes to wear for the week (we did!) or you pay to have the ship's personnel do it for you. Disembarkment -- We arrived in port at 6:30 a.m. and docked a half hour later. After breakfast, we went up to our cabin for some final packing and waited until our number was called (which was the final group at 9:45 a.m.) All of our packed luggage had been placed in our hallway before 1 a.m. the night before and had been taken to the hull of the ship. I liked the idea of being able to stay in our room rather than the hallways, especially if you have to wait for over an hour. Getting off the ship with our luggage went smoothly and took less than 15 minutes. We took a cab to the airport which is only a $10 fare. We had until 5:30 p.m. for our plane to take off so had looked for possible shore excursions to fill up time. The one we wanted was cancelled and the other was over $70, so we decided to spend our time in the airport. We just camped out and visited with our Cruise Critic friends and made some new friends also just off their cruises. We discovered that there is a Chili's sit-down restaurant in Terminal 3 (as well as take-out) and storage space ($5 per bag) where you can leave your luggage. Finally, our plane took off in the middle of a torrential rainstorm. We visited Atlanta and then got home by 10 p.m. in Kansas City. Overall, we enjoyed our cruise on the "Z" and will go cruising again soon. It was a great vacation, with some nice scenery, great friends, and a new appreciation for the Eastern Caribbean. Read Less
Zuiderdam Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 0.0
Dining 3.5 0.0
Entertainment 4.5 0.0
Public Rooms 3.5 0.0
Fitness Recreation 4.0 0.0
Family 2.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 5.0 0.0
Enrichment 5.0 0.0
Service 4.0 0.0
Value For Money 4.5 0.0
Rates 4.0 0.0

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